Dumb And Dumber: Consumers Are Ignorant About Privacy, Expert Says

Finally, I understand who is to blame for data breaches, spamming, election hacking, fake news, online stalking, the dark web and the scams of the Nigerian Prince. 

It’s the consumer, silly. 

Yes, people are begging for everything they get because they are oblivious to how the business world works. That’s the opinion of Tara Kelly, CEO of Splice Software, a company that facilitates data-driven dialogue.  

“It’s almost insulting to our species,” Kelly laughs. “People shouldn’t read things for free and not think that someone is going to be monetizing it. We need to reeducate them on this.”

That very ignorance contributes to a climate in which Senators propose something like the DETOUR (Deceptive Experiences to Online Users Reduction) act, which would make it illegal to use “dark patterns” like pre-ticked opt-in boxes, Kelly argues.  

Some laws would even require consent for A/B testing, the oldest tool in the direct-marketing toolbox in which copy, visuals, offers and other elements are routinely tested to see which one performs best.  



Kelly also feels that people should obtain licenses to even go on the internet. Anyone who drives a car has to be licensed, and there are stoplights and other guides to keep them in line — if you do something wrong, it’s your fault. Why not do the same online? 

Wait a minute — a driver can kill people with a car. What damage is done by someone wasting time on the internet (except to themselves)? 

That’s clear — people need to be well-informed to make sound electoral choices, Kelly says. She goes on to say that consumers are over pampered. And they’re ignorant. 

Granted, this is a little overstated, but Kelly is trying to make a point. She isn’t against privacy rules, but thinks consumers have to be part of the process. But isn’t that tough to achieve when many privacy policies are long and turgidly written, almost as if companies don’t want people to read them?  Talk about dark patterns. 

Kelly counters that cookie permissions now pop up on screens, and they are are short and easy to understand. Email permissions should be done the same way.

To illustrate this, she mentions a client who gets a 78% opt-in at the point of sale and an opt-out rate of less than 1%. Its salespeople are educated on the process and are comfortable discussing it with shoppers. 

“Another client had salespeople just opt in people,” she says. “You can imagine — there were some triggered moments.” She continues that a man who likes a woman he meets in a bar should never do anything creepy like looking at her cell phone to get her number. The same rule applies to marketers.

And for consumers? 

They have to understand that “there is no free lunch,”  Kelly concludes. 

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