Digital privacy: If you’re on the internet, then you’re being tracked


If you’re one of those really private people that cringe at the thought of what others know about you then you should step away from the computer screen.  You are not going to like reading what I’m about to tell you.  The growth of the internet, mobile smartphone usage, emerging and social media has left your privacy exposed in ways you haven’t even thought about.

Every time you log into social media, connect your accounts and applications, browse the internet, give your information to retailers, and credit card companies the digital ‘file’ on you grows.  A process called data aggregation is occurring based on information you have provided, things you have “liked” and shared, and you basically have no way of opting out of this data collection legally (yet).  Lori Andrews explains “there are no laws that require data aggregators to reveal what they know about you” and this information can be used to stereotype you and yield undesired outcomes in your credit, health insurance, or other private and personal matters.  This is known as weblining, a sophisticated data profiling process that I was shocked to learn about.

Most of us are aware that information about our likes and dislikes are being used to provide us relevant offers and advertisements from companies based on our demographics, recent purchases, and browsing habits, but weblining is statistical discrimination if you ask me.   A similar and previous practice redlining has since been outlawed, but weblining remains under the radar for the most part. recommends the following ways to protect yourself from potentional weblining:  only share limited information on websites, be careful what you “like” on social media and what applications you allow access to your information.  Also consider using different browsers for personal accounts and information like email and internet searches, or log out of personal accounts and open a new browsing window before surfing the internet.  Research different third party applications that protect your privacy by turning off tracking or by hiding your IP address from tracers.

The European Union has been working on their law for online tracking since 2002 and hopes to finally have all the details hammered out in late 2014 that will force companies to allow consumers to opt out of data collection.  Here in the U.S. though we are still waiting for the right solution that protects consumers as well as supports economic growth and keeps advertisers happy.  In early 2014 the California “Do Not Track” law went into effect but it is far from all-encompassing to address the issues of data aggregation and weblining.

The Digital Advertising Alliance is also set to unveil a “browser choice” that will allow consumers to opt out of web site data collection and is somehow supposed to be superior to the Microsoft and Mozilla default Do Not Track browsers sometime in 2014.  Whether this self-regulating browser solution will be enough to calm the nerves of those of us that enjoy engaging in social media, linked accounts, and the convenience of some services remains to be seen.

Are you comfortable with these self-regulating efforts or would you rather see specific laws in place to protect your digital privacy?

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Kentucky Derby Festival – Missing marketing opportunities

derby 140

Eyes around the country today are focused on Kentucky for the 140th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.  The Kentucky Derby Festival kicked off a series of events on April 12th and culminates with the running of the thoroughbreds this evening, May 3rd.  By all accounts it is a grand festival and probably the most exciting thing that happens in Kentucky all year so where do you go to keep up with all the excitement?

Surely you can go to Churchill Downs or Kentucky Derby Festival’s websites to see listing of events, videos, social media feeds, and find all that is KDF in one place?  Not so fast.

Churchill Downs website has limited social functionality with a minimalist “social wall”.  What about the days leading up to the big event? How exciting would it be to watch YouTube videos from the trainers, jockeys, and fans experiencing morning workouts of the horses, or perhaps just a collection of streaming Tweets on the homepage to experience all things leading up to Derby in real time.

The Kentucky Derby Festival website also has limited social functionality with at least a “notifications” section at the bottom of their page, but you have to really know what you’re looking at to recognize that it is social content without any of the expected platform logo’s or sharing features tied to the section.

This event has MAJOR corporate sponsors and huge money tied to it annually.  You would think they would have a digital and integrated media specialist tied to making the event as sharable, social, and fun as possible.  Plus with it all the content collected in one place (think Storify to the extreme) with an app that listed event dates and times, concerts, registration features, maps, and a real-time social stream from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Vine and the like even non-Kentuckians could really enjoy the magic of the Kentucky Derby Festival.  (Plus all the corporate sponsors would get even more exposure!)

I must say with as much media attention as the Derby gets, I am disappointed with the lack of integrated marketing for the festival.  This is one instance where just having a website isn’t quite enough, they really need a dedicated app as well as a dedicated social media stream.  Oh well, there’s always 2015!

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Is social media a place for conversations or merely broadcasts?

Answer by Edwin Vlems:

Conversations of course. The reason that companies use social media to broadcast has a name: The 'Horseless Carriage Syndrome'; The first cars looked like carriage without horses. Not because of a functional reason but because of a lack of fantasy. It is also the reason that the first video recordings were registrations of theater plays. And it is the reason that social media are used by brands to broadcast their message.

View Answer on Quora

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Social media – Place for conversations or broadcast?

At the end of 2012 Jake Levine predicted that 2013 would bring about a “broadcast-ification” of social media.  Social media platforms began as a place for conversations, but are they evolving to less conversation and more news broadcast? Levine uses Twitter as an example, saying “it’s much easier to bring people on board to a ‘real-time feed of news links from publishers and celebrities you’ve heard of’ than it is to explain ‘a distributed messaging platform where you follow friends, some people you don’t know, some celebrities, and some brands.'”  Well he has a point there, but is it really true? Are our social media channels merely becoming a place to broadcast?

Is it just coincidence that the most popular social media site Facebook’s main feature is called a News Feed? Hmmm, I don’t think so.  I must admit that when I initially read Levine’s prediction I thought, “wait a minute, but there are a lot of brands having great conversations with consumers out there!”Overall though when I think about my own social media posts to Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn I can’t really advocate they generate a ton of conversations.

O’Keefe expands on Levine’s prediction saying “We believe the future of news – in 2014 and beyond – is on mobile devices, via powerful social platforms, and through the unique storytelling power of video.” So the news is on social media, and social media is the news.  Does that leave room for genuine conversations? A dwindling few.  There are still people and businesses having some great conversations via social media, but mostly we’ve become broadcasters.

What do you think? Do you consider yourself a social media conversationalist or a broadcaster?

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Crowdsourcing – should you be doing it?

Crowdsourcing is an old idea brought anew by the rise of the internet, the ultimate connectivity tool.  The term coined by Jeff Howe of WIRED magazine in 2006 as “…the process by which the power of the many can be leveraged to accomplish feats that were once the province of a specialized few.” I have to admit I’d heard of crowdsourcing but didn’t really have a firm grasp of the concept until this week.  After watching this video for our Emerging Media class it really helped bring home the concept to me.

So I wondered what is on the cutting edge of crowdsourcing these days, and whether or not I (and you) should be doing it? Let’s say you had a mysterious disease that no doctor had yet to help you resolve.  What if you could crowdsource your medical files, symptoms, and information and possibly find the cause of what ails you? That’s just the idea that Jared Heyman as with CrowdMed, a program that uses medical students and retired doctors to find the cause of what ails complicated patients!  I suffered for 18 years with chronic pain before I really figured out what was ailing me and found relief.  I would’ve jumped on the chance to have my illness diagnosed when I was in my twenties.  Those are precious years I’ll never get back.

Another great example of recent crowdsourcing was for the lost Malyasia Airlines jet.  Thousands of good Samaritans volunteered their time to scour through satellite images to try and help locate the missing plane.

It makes you wonder if you can crowdsource medical diagnosis, and plane crashes, what else should we be crowdsourcing in our lives and businesses? Have you crowdsourced anything?



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Proximity marketing: the future of mobile advertising or privacy nightmares?


CaptureFor years now people have been talking about the growth and development of mobile proximity or bluetooth based marketing to customers based on geo-location.  Say you’re at the mall and you might get a coupon for a certain store directly to your phone if you have your wireless or bluetooth engaged.  Well I don’t know about you but I’ve had an iphone for years now with bluetooth engaged and I’ve never come across any proximity marketing to date.  So do I just not get out enough, or are retail companies just completely avoiding this opportunity? Why does it seem no one is doing proximity marketing?

It turns out the idea for proximity and Bluetooth marketing has been around for years as a marketers dream but the technology to actually target and locate users based on proximity has been dicey.  Until now… enter Apple’s iBeacon device entered the market as of January 2014.  iBeacon – “the micro-location technology uses a low-energy Bluetooth signal to enable mobile app experiences with higher accuracy than GPS. Transmitters are placed throughout the store and shoppers who have downloaded the app are detected when they enter.”  The problem with this so-called technology of the future is that users still have to opt in, download an app, or otherwise engage with a brand, store, or opportunity.  With all the personalization, privacy issues, and drama of late with mobile and electronic transactions I have trouble imagining that mobile users are really going to latch onto this idea for special offers and coupons.  Would you be likely to “opt-in” to save a few bucks?

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Are video ads the next best thing in advertising?

This week I ran across some humorous statistics about the ineffectiveness of display advertising from Hubspot.  Since I’m pregnant my favorite was “You are more likely to birth twins than click a banner ad. (Source:  Solve Media)!   Ha! I’d say that’s probably true since I don’t think I have ever intentionally clicked a banner advertisement.  Apparently not too many other people have ever intentionally clicked them either with the average banner ad click through rate (CTR) at 0.1%.  So even though there are a lot of display advertisements out there on the internet what are consumers responding to? It appears to be video.

year of video YOU TUBE

Video is everywhere right now. In your social media streams, in dreaded banner advertisements and pop-up ads, embedded into Web sites, and even on your mobile.  The question is do consumers respond to it better than other online forms of advertising? I personally get annoyed with information only in video format, but I like video that supplements written information.  Perhaps this is because I can read something fast than I can watch it, but am I alone?

A recent study done by ScienceDaily shows that video ads are very effective based on where the advertisement is placed in the video as well as other factors like how often someone visits a site, and whether or not it is fast loading, feature video, news video, or the overall content.

What about you how do you feel about the unbelievable growth of video on the web and the increased use of video advertising?

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