Privacy Please

Wherever you go, it seems that people are primarily engaged in one pursuit: busily reading and sending messages and other content on their smartphones. It’s a pretty seismic shift in social behaviour.

 I keep noticing groups of young teens meeting in restaurants, spending significant proportions of their time together huddled around the screen of their smartphones. They are living life through these devices, and for some it is so obsessive that they are almost no longer participants, but just an extension of their phone. I know, because I am the father of one of them.


Data privacy

But how conscious are they about data privacy and the increasing evidence that both legislation and regulation around data privacy for mobile and wi-fi, are creaking at the seams?

Recent UK rulings forcing a company like Google to destroy the private data it collected from unsecured wi-finetworks, or Renew London to stop using recycling bins to collect unique MAC addresses from passing mobile devices – these are just two cases which highlight some of the challenges that self-regulation and legislation still need to address.

According to recent research by the Pew Research Center and Harvard University, more than half of all US teenagers are concerned about privacy when using mobile phones. But as always, with all things mobile-related, context is critical, and their concerns are more about whether an app has ‘social privacy’ (vs. parents and schools) than about advertising and government surveillance.

In order to get a little deeper insight, Infosys recently surveyed 5,000 digitally-savvy consumers in five countries, including 1,000 in the UK. The results revealed some interesting insights into the varying degrees with which consumers trade personal data with organisations in the Banking, Retail and Healthcare sectors. 


Relevant offers

The study showed that consumers are willing to share their private information with companies, but only if they perceive they are getting something in return. 70 per cent revealed they are willing to share data with retailers, and 76 per cent with banks, but interestingly, similar proportions feel that online promotions or emails they receive are not compelling. On the other hand, 78 per cent are more likely to buy from retailers who deliver targeted and relevant offers. No major surprise there, but good news for marketers all the same.

The mobile phone though, has its own challenges, as the very thing that makes it so attractive to marketers also makes it harder to succeed. It is the highly personal relationship we have with the device, which makes it so difficult for marketers to reach us without the risk of becoming an even more annoying interruption than a TV commercial. Getting data privacy right is therefore probably the first important foundation for great mobile marketing. 

There are many guidelines available in the public domain for best practice in this space, but the seven simple principles promoted by the Future of Privacy Forum work for me: 

  1. Practice privacy by design in your mobile development process
  2. Communicate openly and effectively about your data policy
  3. Make your privacy policy easily accessible
  4. Use enhanced notice and don’t surprise users
  5. Provide users with choices and controls for how data is used
  6. Secure your users’ data
  7. Ensure accountability in your organisation

Being proud enough of your data privacy policy to promote it publicly should get you over the first, but very significant hurdle in mobile marketing. 


Peter Sieyes is AVP and head of consumer marketing at Infosys