People, when assembled in large groups, can be disastrously evil. People allowed to act as individuals can have scary thoughts, but they are usually harmless. So what happens when you collect large amounts of data from individuals and assemble behavioral dynamics for the masses?
The latest trend in the interactive industry consolidation is a turf war to make the consuming public's life easier and more enjoyable. Centering around this activity of course, is the mountain of revenue in collecting fees for the once scoffed at search engine advertising links.
Isn't simplicity beautiful? Advertising is going to become relevant and user controlled. The media landscape will change forever. Everything else we are discussing (privacy, data collection, etc.) with the latest round of proposed mergers is more or less academic. Or is it?
Is privacy really important to anyone? Watching over those who are watching you is becoming a hobby for many Americans. My subscription to a credit score/identity theft monitoring service is money well spent.
Each month, I check my accounts diligently, and it seems every other week, I get a letter from a financial institution apologizing for "accidentally" compromising my checking account information. Literal translation of the letter's word gravel is as follows:
Dear (insert name here):
Oops! We fired this dude and it seems he helped himself to your checking account number ending in ####. Don't worry though, your account was one of millions our former employee has.
We are really sorry. Seriously, we didn't mean it. Good luck with your next credit application.
(insert firm name here)
Remember my thought on humans in packs? Mobs do really odd things. The mob mentality in "Lord of the Flies" didn't work out so well for Piggy, but how about some modern day, beyond fiction examples of humans behaving reprehensibly.
Let's take, for example, the recent trouble O.J. Simpson had with his attempted dining experience in Kentucky. Or perhaps we should take a look at some opinions on Britney's mom skills? I invite you to look at any discussion board (on either subject) and contact me when you have an accurate number of racial epithets used in discussion.
On one hand, privacy means the freedom to deliver unto others playful, racist, and even potentially harmful banter. On the other hand, as long as special interest groups take money from large corporations to help keep a watchful eye on other companies, we can always count on something in the middle of good and evil arriving on the scene.
Self Regulate This
There I was on the corner of Broadway and 42nd Street holding a $12 bill. That nice man who just sold me his $12 note for 10 bucks was so ill-informed. If I hadn't gotten that blog news alert about the new $12 notes in circulation, I might have thought he was attempting to defraud me.
You'd have to be socially dysfunctional to not notice the lack of accuracy requirements for bloggers. And of course, the blogosphere is often unkind to big corporate. Perhaps they shouldn't be worried about accountability and perhaps big corporate deserves the occasional tongue-lashing.
Corporate responsibility? Pardon me if I lack confidence. Anytime anyone has been granted unlimited power and zero accountability, really bad things happen. You can argue about the alignment of special interest groups and question the validity of alleged "independent" studies for years, but at the end of the day, they are getting the right people's attention.
Do I think some ill-informed nudnik's blog should be returned in a "news" search just because a whole bunch of people like to read his crap? Lots of people like to read tabloids, but that doesn't mean the contents qualify as "news."
Prepare Yourself for Armageddon
Those helping to protect the little guy (even if the little guys are generating billions in revenue) might just make enough noise to get people interested in the idea of change. Although noting the fact that interactive marketing is a young industry is generally considered cliché, I must invoke said cliché.
Wherever your position on the Google/DoubleClick acquisition lies, it appears the real battlefield is who has rights to what data and how often. Special interest groups lobbying for stricter controls and opposed to the merger are creating quite a stir in the blogosphere. They are arguing regulation in managing data is important.
Proponents counter by claiming self-regulation is better. They also contend that stated special interest groups are merely well funded lobbying groups organized by competitors.
As the business grows up, more regulation will be required. The fallout will be similar to the rise and fall of telecom. Commercial entities will grow large only to be broken up. Shortly thereafter, the cycle will begin again, and the entire cycle will repeat itself.
The only difference between the telecom rise and fall and the consolidation of interactive marketing entities is the volume of millions of voices.
Kevin is off this week. Today's column ran earlier on Search Engine Watch.