You Are The Product

You Are The Product
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“If you are using a service and you are not paying for it – you are the product.” This is the reality of the internet today and it is one many forget.

Each and every single internet-using person is being stalked, tracked and profiled by hundreds of businesses, according to Hardhat Digital’s user experience (UX) lead Brendan Kearns.

Facebook can now access your phone’s microphone to eavesdrop on what you are listening/watching while you post an update. Given such Big Brotherish updates it is no surprise that “we have gone a little bit antsy about this whole privacy thing”.

“If we were lucky to live over 100 years ago in the upper classes of society we would have had no problem with helpers watching us eat, sleep and shit. In fact we probably would have demanded it,” Kearns said at Hardhat’s Real Big Things event in Melbourne late last week.

“Somehow, in that relatively short period of time between then and now we have got so uptight about our perceived privacy that I wouldn’t even be able to tell if my wife had paid for our health insurance.”

When it comes to the internet and privacy, Kearns said it is important to remember that we are at the wrong starting point.

“We think that the internet is free, we think we can go about searching, clicking, buying products, using products, having conversations and watching videos for no cost other then the time we spend doing it.

“But here is the reality, if you are using a service and you are not paying for it – you are the product. And if you are the product you are being sold to an advertiser who is the real customer.”

Because consumers expect the internet to be always free and “increasingly awesome” conversations around advertising targeting need to be a priority.

“I’m pretty happy as a 28 year old guy to never see another ad about tampons, baby clothing or retirement homes. And I’m pretty sure if you manage those budgets you wouldn’t want me seeing them,” Kearns said.

“The unfortunate reality is that in 2014 we are still spending way too much time…creating horrible experiences and making people jump through invasive forms and giving up more than they are getting back.”

The more information a user gives up the better and more personalised their experience should be.

Kearns said brands often have the data necessary to start delivering better experiences. There are two simple questions brands need to ask themselves to get back on track:

  1. What data do I have that I’m not using properly?
  2. What did my users expect to get in return when they gave me this information?

“If we are going to stalk, track and profile people we may as well build something awesome with it [the information].”

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