Data Mining and Privacy

We all have a Kramer* in our lives –  that nosy neighbor that asks the personal questions or conveniently drops in uninvited for the football game and leeches on the six-pack and pretzels. Most of us feel the same way about Kramer and data mining, in that we think that both are invasive to the point that they undermine our privacy. But unlike our uninvited house guest, data mining actually has ethics.

Getting Personal

The general notion about data mining is that, the consumer’s personal information is being unscrupulously collected and sold without their knowledge or consent. Some have even thrown out the idea that companies collect intimate data, like photos from customer’s social media accounts. This is very far from the truth. In reality, all your data is yours to keep.

The Boogeyman doesn’t need your vacation photos or cat videos. Customers are always given a choice of either accepting or opting out of data collection. This is usually in the form of a data privacy statement that you can either choose to accept or not. Always read this. Even though most companies are very clear on how they use your data, there are still those who lack ethical concern and may choose to use your information otherwise. These companies run the risk of backlash from consumers and the government just to gain a competitive edge from their rivals. Ethical companies on the other hand, only collect certain data points that would help them in product development and improve customer experience. So in the end, privacy still rests on the hand of the consumer. Read and understand these privacy agreements, and steer away from those that have vague policies regarding the privacy of your information.

Speak and you shall find

Voice technology coupled with data mining can reap massive benefits for businesses. It can capture more usable information more accurately, resulting in richer data sets that helps you better understand your customer’s needs. More defined customer behavior produces better targeted advertising, better products, reduces production cost and helps you build a more tailor-fit customer experience.

For Better or Worse

Privacy is a touchy subject and rightfully so. Big businesses must be more transparent regarding their data collection methods and usage. Governments must work in tandem with businesses in protecting the consumers right to privacy. On the flipside, consumers must be well-informed of the consequences of sharing their information with companies. In the end, good companies turn out a profit the right way, while shady ones will not care about your data as long as they gain even the slightest edge against their competitors. Would it be worth it to gain a small advantage but lose your credibility in the process?  Even Kramer can answer that question.

* Cosmo Kramer, usually referred to as simply “Kramer”, is a fictional character on the American television sitcom Seinfeld, played by Michael Richards. (