A Tremble on the Web

You may be happy to give up your personal data and privacy in exchange for discounts and services. I am, most of the time, provided I can see what it is you know about me. How is the relationship between you, me and the brands who hold my data, going to change in C21?

Well, I just spent a happy half hour listening to Creative Industries Knowledge Transfer Network and TheAlloy tell me about how they see that things are changing in the digital space. I’ve come away seriously thoughtful about one of the twelve great points they made. That point was “what if the creators of User Generated Content start asking to be paid – in cash or kind – for what they add to your brand or product?”

While that is a seriously frightening thought for many of the major UGC sites, and it is not a new thought in itself, there is a new issue underneath this. And that issue is “what information – especially financial information – are Brands prepared to share with Users, so that Users can see that they have been fairly rewarded for their contribution”.

That might not make sense right away, but I think it will become a serious question very soon now. The hypothetical User may well be happy to accept a 10% discount voucher from Brand X for creating a 2 page review of Product Y illustrated with photos and including quotes from their friends. What if, in future, an App shows that the traffic (direct and referred) from their little blog and its associated ecology helped to drive $10m in sales of Product Y? Was that 10% discount fair? Was the effort / reward balance enough to stop them swapping from Brand advocate to Brand enemy? What new services will emerge to inform the User?

That future is coming, and the principle of bi-directionality in terms of privacy and data is going to cause big changes in the way the digitally savvy consumers and UGC originators think about the value of their work.

Data – it is already a TWO WAY STREET. I don’t think that brands can carry on asking the public to sacrifice privacy for access to discounts or products unless the brands themselves are also willing to give up a little privacy of their own,


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