Have the ad industry’s data collection practices fueled the general public’s acceptance of the government’s prying eyes?
This morning, we got to hear first hand from PRISM Whistleblower Edward Snowden in a video interview conducted by the Freedom of the Press Foundation. In the 12-minute video, Snowden gives in-depth commentary on his decision to release NSA documents and why Americans need to be more vigilant on the issue of privacy.
After watching the video, Digital Net Agency Chief Strategy Officer Skip Graham had a bit of a crisis of conscience regarding the online advertising industry’s part in the collection and use of personal information.
In an email, Graham said, “For years we as digital marketers have created systems that gathered vast personal data while telling consumers that they should have no fear of such activities. We told them that despite the fact that we were in essence watching everything that they did and making calculated choices to manipulate their decisions based on that knowledge, that this was ultimately a benefit to them and that they were still remaining anonymous and therefore their privacy was not at risk. And we said this even though the slightest application of historical perspective would have clearly shown the slippery slope to its inevitable complete loss.”
Graham argues that the advertising industry has played a key role in “softening” consumer’s viewpoints on privacy issues effectively making the public feel “OK” about handing over personal information online.
As this relates to Snowden and the NSA, Graham continues, “I don’t believe it would have been possible for the NSA and the American government to so blithely act as if their current actions were not a violation of our constitutional rights without literally years of prior effort by some of the best minds marketing has to offer to convince the public that this was the reality of how data is gathered and can be be maintained. We went first and told the public not to worry, to have faith and to trust. We crafted the arguments, molded the opinions, and quieted the skeptics.”
It’s no secret the advertising industry has become a master at data collection. After all, a marketer wants to know all the can about a person’s likes, dislikes, demographics, behavior and general demeanor.
Is it conceivable the ad industry played a role in facilitating the vast collection of data now living in the cloud and available to anyone with proper or improper access? Has this practice of data collection made people immune to potential consequences that might result from the collection of this information? Or is data collection really not the issue, rather it’s use?