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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Your Personal Information...

Sometimes I look at the blog The Digital Nirvana - I found this post which interested me.

The point is basically are constantly "tricked" by web sites promising us things we want, information mostly, to get our personal information for various blast-based marketing.

"A respected industry resource uses its reader email list to push out content that vendors have paid them to distribute to us. So what’s wrong with that? Some might say it’s no different than receiving a piece of direct mail from an insurance company simply because we subscribe to The Wall Street Journal. What can I say? It feels different. Wait, darn it! It is different.

What comes to my inbox from a respected information resource suggests to me that any information they deliver has been vetted for value, right? Not so when money alone will get that information delivered to me. Not so, when the distributor isn’t telling me the “information” is “advertorial” or “product placement.”

Bottomline: I trusted you and you sold me out. Or, to edit MrHeretic a wee bit, “You killed [the value of your content] when you treated respondents like lab rats.”

I don't know about all this. I think the mistake here is believing that just because someone or something is respected they will always have your best interests in mind.

Personally I always use a bogus email/password/personal information load to track what people do with things are sign up for.  I've done this for probably 6-7 years now - so I've had time to watch the livelihoods of my faux alternate egos. 

I never trust anything on a computer having to do with my personal information unless I am buying something.  I figure if I pay for it then those that are selling it will have enough respect to keep my information private if I request it (usually by unchecking the "Keep me updated" check box on the check out screen).

I was in the market research business for a number of years - mostly having to do with research related to health care usage.  This was in the mid 90's.

The lady I worked with told me an interesting thing:  Even though they (the health care company) could demonstrate with fact and research that if you had thus-and-such free cancer screening test your chance of surviving a bout with that cancer was nearly 100% much less than half of those who might benefit from bothered to get it.

So, to be clear, if I said "This free test will tell us if you have cancer type A - which we can cure at almost a 100% rate - do you want the test?" 

More than half the time the answer was no - go away - I don't want your free test.

I had to stop and think about this and the Nirvana post brought it back to my mind.

People for the most part think they are lab rats - at least as far as something as big and powerful like an insurance company is concerned.  As an health care consumer myself I am bombarded with various offers of "free" stuff to get me to sign up: exercise, tests, etc.

I believe that makes them (and me) predisposed to reject any content they get from them - whether hard copy or electronic - whether it can save their life or not.

I would say most people believe any content they get by "signing up" is bogus - even if its not and even to their own detriment.

Market research offers a route to the reasons that this happens and, while collecting emails for blast distribution mailings is one thing, getting people to trust the email or act on it is quite another.  The reason for this is the "direct response rate" - which is the percentage of people who actually respond.  My guess is that its low - people know what they are getting into for the most part when they sign up and they "take the results (spam, blast email, etc.) with a grain of salt).

My alter egos live on to this day - I still get the occasional email or spam directed at them.  But these days spammers are far more efficient and most companies have learned the hard way what happens when you use someone's email outside of the requestor's original intent.

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