Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said that privacy is a fundamental, core right of every human being. That almost every other right that we enjoy is built on our right to privacy – from financial transactions to healthcare to even our location at any particular moment. We rely on privacy to protect us from the many onerous threats to our personal information.
I think Cook properly understands that consumers need, and want, choice when it comes to sharing their information. Consumers should be those in power – with the ability to opt in or opt out to certain types of advertising, for example, without compromising their digital experience. And, as part of that, to understand how and when opting-in provides benefits, as well as drawbacks.
That’s because people, after all, want ads – even if they tell you otherwise. A colleague often relays an unofficial but telling study that a very smart client conducted. When asked whether they wanted to receive advertising, respondents universally said, “No.” When the same respondents were asked later whether they’d like to receive information about things that might interest them, universally they responded, “Yes.”
The problem is that too many ads today aren’t relevant. They subtract from the users’ experience and subsequently turn off consumers. (It remains one of the biggest missteps for advertisers). Ads should enhance the users experience and make it more customized to their preferences.
If you think about it, when brands respect people’s privacy and give them more control of their digital experiences, people are likely to enjoy it more. How nice would it be to only see ads you want to see, for products you might actually want to purchase?
The problem is that algorithms can’t be right every time, because they use averages. People aren’t averages. Each person has idiosyncrasies, as well as very different wants, needs and motivations, that algos can’t identify.
That’s where privacy rules actually help advertisers And a lot more than they might think. Only people can speak for themselves. Machines can’t do that. If advertisers allow people to express a preference or even a lack of interest, they will learn whether they’re wanted or not. How refreshing! No more annoying ads you don’t want to see? People would love that. They soon might demand it. And advertisers can focus on building relationships with the people who truly care about their products and services – and whose passion becomes a significant benefit in expanding visibility.
In this instance, at least, we’re with Tim. Privacy doesn’t mean private. It means control and understanding. So that advertisers and their consumers can develop mutually-beneficial relationships.