Last week, a Buzzfeed investigation revealed that advertising company Titan had placed roughly 500 Gimbal beacons, which can be used to transmit messages and collect anonymized data via Bluetooth, in phone booths across NYC. Buzzfeed’s article painted a nefarious picture of the beacons’ potential “surveillance” use.
The city ordered their immediate removal, but opinions were split on whether or not this news hailed the coming of Minority Report in real life. Buzzfeed seemed to think so, but CityLab was less sure, noting that Titan’s move was, “no more freaky-deaky than the tracking technology we encounter on the web every day.” In addition, the beacons actually required user opt-in via an app for data collection.
If one thing is clear, it’s that how cities and businesses present their data gathering programs to the public is becoming increasingly important, especially as consumers become more aware of the various sensors surrounding them in the physical world.
What’s the best way to present data collection efforts in an open and educational way to the public? Here are five steps you can take to stave off growing concern around tech and privacy:
- Be proactive about marketing your data collection efforts - present the facts clearly to the consumer to avoid potential misinterpretation of the facts if others break the news first.
- Clearly outline the benefits of your service for consumers - allow your customers to draw their own conclusions. If you message correctly, many might think that sharing their data is worth the enhanced experience.
- Consider an opt-in rather than opt-out strategy – building a happy and engaged—albeit smaller—audience may be worth the trade-off. This will become more important as consumer and privacy groups increase their efforts to counter opt-out programs. If you decide on opt out, building consumer awareness around privacy will be even more crucial.
- Highlight how your data protects the anonymized information of customers where possible.
- Partner with a privacy organization, such as the Future of Privacy Forum, to develop your privacy and marketing policies, and display any privacy certifications prominently in your materials.