Is Violation of Context > Violation of Privacy?

The concept of privacy violation has been a polarizing subject since the advent and rise of the web. With personal information being shared and stored by entities like GoogleFacebook and Amazon its easy to sometimes feel like these groups know more about us than we know about us.

The ethical question naturally arises “are they going to far in storing my information?” and “how much are they actually using my information?” It’s hard to look past the fact that these groups have a fairly good understanding of who we are and what/who we like, and then use that information to engage/market to/inform us. Still would it be worse if they knew nothing about us?

Now in all transparency I do considered myself to be a marketer for some time now and my view may be skewed/jaded/whatever you would like to call it, but I think that at least for those below a certain age that this level of efficiency attained by data is more important than a certain sense of privacy. Now I don’t necessarily love the term “Millennial” (which for anyone over 40 may be slang for narcissist), but for the sake convenience I will say that this may largely be true for the millennial generation. Leading a fast paced digital lifestyle affords no time for anything that does not fit the context of their tastes/preferences at that moment in time.

If content is not relevant, served through they’re preferred medium or non-native to a channel it may do even more harm than good. Especially in the digital media/social media space where attention spans are short and it is just as easy to disassociate yourself with an organization/brand that does not resonate with you. Which is why organizations/brands resort to behavioral data collection in order maintains a good understanding of individuals and groups as to provide value? They then leverage the data collected to develop and maintain a more authentic connection than they would have otherwise.

This is where the paradigm shift comes into play. In the absence of a clear happy medium the risk of coming across as creepy/manipulative is outweighed by the never-ending quest for relevance through data. This could be why contextual based services like Songza (a contextual musical curation service based on users current environment, also recently purchased by Google) are becoming increasingly popular. Because if its raining and I want the perfect song for me on a rainy day, Songza knows my taste in music, knows its raining based on my location and knows what I am normally doing at that time of day. It streamlines things so I don’t have to bounce around to find something relevant to me, I don’t have to change the station on the radio or even come back periodically so it can make sure I’m still listening.

This would not be possible without Songza creating a backlog of data on me, what they do with that data aside from suggesting music to me is completely irrelevant because the utility that they provide me is that valuable enough that I don’t care. Even their advertising can be helpful because the ads I get are so hyper-relevant to me that they tend to be useful and the companies with enough foresight to advertise on Songza have enough sense and creativity that they know that what they say has to have some value or it will violate my context and I will not only tune it out but remember to avoid it the next time I make a purchase. My experiences is streamlined and virtually seamless which makes it that much more efficient and enjoyable.

Still this may not be true for millennials across the board, but this concept is certainly becoming more prevalent with more and more future digital natives being born and eventually maturing into connected consumers each day. The concept of violation of privacy may not have completely given way to the concept of violation of context, but it seems to be the direction the world is heading in.


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