The Philosophical Enquiry of Data Prostitution


I was at an Eloqua conference today. Indeed, I may have been the only person at the conference who wasn’t actually using Eloqua. Some of the presentations covered technical, product-specific information, better suited to those Eloqueens and Elokings, but overall I thought it was a really well-planned / organised day. I gained valuable insights into a powerful platform and met some genuinely interesting people… with superb banter.

We had “break-out chats” throughout the day, with a couple of provocative trains of thought for me:

1) Permission and privacy – it has taken me this long to discover Canada’s laws on opt-in messaging are much more relaxed than the UK’s, which may explain the increase in “huh?” moments, where I don’t recognise a subscription and immediately flag it as spam in Gmail. 

2) Infographicism – somebody asked the question “what makes great data for an infographic?”, which irked me because I thought “just ask your audience!” Sometimes I think we marketers passify (is that the word I’m looking for?) our “audience” by focusing (to excess) on systems and processes; forgetting that we’re still communicating with real humans. 

Now I may have been too quick to judge the question since the conversation evolved into a more meaningful discussion on the RoI of creating interesting data to visualise, versus recycling stats that are already out there in cyberspace. I raised my hand and pointed out that the OKCupid blog does an awesome job of visualising/illustrating data. I like it because they mine registrant data from their online dating service, but they SHARE it right back as insightful blog posts. I daresay OKCupiders don’t even think about “infographic” or what makes a great infographic, because illustrating their data as dialogue has become second nature. They don’t care about what’s cool…. they already possess “un certain… je sais exactement quoi”.

Which brings me to data trading… or the idea of data as a dialogue…. or data as currency that consumers own or share.

In the past, I’ve proposed in various strategies that instead of secretly harvesting information on users / customers to apply stealth promotion techniques and flog stuff more efficiently – we SHARE our insights with these audiences. We start public conversations like “our web traffic shows ladies who love X, are more likely to X” and see where the comments take us. We’re open about the data we capture and involve our people in discussions around the database – should they choose to take part. We encourage people to be aware of what’s being captured about them, but most importantly we stress that every individual is their own stakeholder and instead of passively relinquishing control of our privacy, we can each license our own data and even profit from this.

Something along the lines of young Tim here here:

Not simply because it’s our moral right, but because there’s additional value in each of us making an effort to define and measure our own value too.

A bit like organ and blood donation, but with privacy… We say who, we say when, we say how much! 

It would leave the consumer and the company exposed to a degree, but it’s a platform that openly grows intelligence on both sides.

Now I need to caveat at this point, that I haven’t completely thought this through, but I wanted to blog about it, just in case the thought drops out of memory and I never reach the conclusion, which is very possible.