“Do Not Track” has been a hot topic for a seemingly long time and shows no real sign of a quick resolution. The main issue is relatively straightforward: what data can sites and services collect from my online behaviors, and what limits do these sites and services have in using this data to target me? Heavyweights such as Google, Microsoft and others are actively looking for a solution as they realize the industry’s failure to better police itself could result in tighter restrictions in targeting consumers.
Instead of solving the problem head-on, why not simply change the way that data is collected and used? Instead of extracting the “data” from the user without the user’s knowledge or permission (today’s version), why not put the user at the “center” of the data where they have complete control and an incentive to ensure that their data is accurate and useful. In other words, what if every online user had their own Interest Account where they had complete control? It would be ubiquitous and comprehensive and “Do Not Track” would no longer be as relevant, as the consumer would decide what data is used and how that data is shared.
The Millennial generation gives us good insight into how the concept of an Interest Account might work. Sharing data across social networks and apps is second nature for them. Millennials are less concerned about “data out” versus the “return payoff” from providing the data in the first place. In other words, Millennials are more than willing to share data as long as there is an immediate and beneficial result. They are more likely to ask the question, “What’s in it for me?” instead of asking, “Should I share this information in the first place?”
But why an Interest Account? Let’s take a look at an example of how we interact with the things we’re interested in today. Social Networks collectively know quite a bit about our interests, but how much do these networks know about our “real” interests? Who knows how many “likes” Facebook has on its users, and are they even accurate and representative of the “real” me? Does my “liking” something on Facebook mean I actually “like” it?
A user-controlled Interest Account adds an important layer of insight to a person’s online identity that no social media service has today (i.e., a comprehensive, accurate representation of your interests). LinkedIn contains good insight into your professional network, Facebook is great for personal sharing, and Netflix knows what entertains us. But no one site or service has an accurate picture and degrees of affinity for any given consumer.
We’ve found that Millennials want to both create a collection of interests, as well as use them (i.e., apps) and share them in various ways. Equally important for them is the realization that extrapolation alone doesn’t cut it. It is useful for some degree of automation, but if you don’t allow them to have direct and complete control to manipulate how their interest information is used, you will immediately lose any opportunity to generate trust, ownership and utility with them.
Millennials provide good insight into the solution as they are much more willing to freely share “data” and are less concerned about where that “data” goes and how it’s being used. They are a perfect consumer segment to help us understand that we need to put “Do Not Track” behind us, and start developing platforms that bring to light the value and utility of a ubiquitous interest account.