If you aren't paying for it, you're the product. It was as true of TV in the last century as it is of the internet today. Marketing has become more targeted and individualized so it's no wonder that your data has so much value. If you're interested in learning more about how marketing companies collect data about potential clients, read on.
How Do Businesses Get Your Information?
From artificial intelligence to policy and charging rules function software nodes, nearly every company with which you do business is collecting information about you. There are three primary methods of collecting data: some companies buy your information from other sources and collate it with the information they already have, they can track you through cookies or location information you make available, or they can ask you directly.
Businesses track what you do on their websites and how you interact with their social media. Click maps are heat maps businesses can use to track where people click on their website and what type of device they were using to view it. It's a good example of the amazing technology out there but it's very general compared to the granular detail marketers are able to glean about your life. Most marketers will use a combination of all types of data collection to build the most robust profile of a consumer they can.
One of the broadest types of information and one that may seem less intrusive than others is your attitudinal data. Attitudinal data includes your preferences for particular branding, how desirable you find different types or styles of products. This information is culled from your online reviews, sometimes from surveys businesses send you after buying their products or from comments you've made when you had to open a support case or complaint. Usually, this is information you've put out there knowingly whether through giving them solicited or unsolicited feedback.
Engagement data tracks how you interact with a business. As mentioned above, a click map is one way that businesses track engagement, but there are many tools that let businesses know nearly everything you do related to their business. Their email marketing app will tell them if you opened the sales email they sent you, how long you kept it open and whether and where you clicked through to their website.
Behavioral data is the how and why behind the engagement data, trying to track how you shop, what you buy, how and when you browse and on what technology. If a business knows that people are looking for that new couch while they are browsing on their tablets before bed, that's the time they will target their ads at their preferred clients. How do they know their prefered clients? Through collecting data. Behavioral data can even track what types of ads are likely to catch your eye.
Finally, businesses collect your personal data. This can be all the way from the information you may not want in the public realm like your social security number to nonpersonally identifiable information, like your computer's ID and IP address. Your search history, social media posts and location information are all forms of personal information you make available to companies simply by using their services, like a post on Facebook or a search on Google.
Technology is changing so quickly that it's almost impossible to keep up with, much less imagine, all the ways your data makes it into the hands of marketers. One marketing company claims to have scans of over 2 billion license plates that are available to companies to buy and could potentially be used in part of a background check. Stores can track your path through a store, seeing where you spend your time and the route you take both through signal tracking on your phone and if you use their free wi-fi, through your connection to their router. Facial recognition cameras are just the latest iteration of tracking software that will be used to offer you what they think you're interested in.
To be a functioning member of society who hasn't gone off the grid there's almost no way to avoid all the ways your data is collected, but by being aware of what you are agreeing to and remembering that if something is free, you're the product, you can make more informed decisions about what you're willing to do online.
Publish Date: May 18, 2021 2:58 PM