According to the panelists on the latest TelecomTV Main Agenda Interactive programme, 'Who owns the Clickstream?' it's early days yet on the personal information front line as the industry tussles with customers and regulators over gathering and using personal information. Perhaps what's needed is individual ownership? By Ian Scales.
The telecoms industry ranks second, just behind banking, as the sector with the most established trust relationship with its customers. "When you pick up the phone and place a call it's not being listened in to," says Paul Magelli head of subscriber data management at Nokia Siemens Networks, "it's being protected."
Magelli was quoted in a play-in to a lively discussion on the subject as part of TelecomTV's Main Agenda Interactive series last week.
The consensus view by the participants was that such a position should give telcos a head start at becoming the 'trusted' player when it comes to collecting and selling data (both specific and anonymised) about users buying and browsing habits.
The problem was, it was agreed, that attempts to establish telcos in this guise - trusted partner to users - have on some occasions been spectacularly unsuccessful. (see Web-not-so-wise: BT drops Phorm)
If people know their information is being collected "it just rings alarm bells for them," according to panel member, Ben Wood of CCS Insight. So Phorm became the villain of the piece because the public didn't fully understand what was happening and didn't understand the 'anonymity' part of the equation.
And the need for users to opt-out of Phorm's behavioural advertising trials in the UK if they objected, rather than make a conscious decision to participate (opt in), was what really caused the controversy and decided the issue agreed the panel.
"Because their partners didn't want to have their brands tainted they quickly withdrew from the programme," says Woods. So exit Phorm, at least in the UK.
From a regulatory point of view, collecting data for market research purposes is very different from collecting it for targeting advertising, says another panel member, Phil Laidler, consulting director at STL Partners/Telco 2.0 Initiative. A lot of the controversy that we've seen has been built up around data collected for behavioural advertising, he says.
But where does this leave us? The industry now knows what not to do when it comes to customer data management. But what is the way forward?
The panel was presented with an alternative framework. The clickstream could, with some justification, be seen as personal intellectual property, reflecting a user's informed choices and knowledge as well as his or hers likely buying behaviour.
So instead of trying to see how much it can get away with in terms of data collection and use (and then suffer all the brick-bats and mistrust such an approach will inevitably seed), why, it was asked, doesn't the industry assert the primacy of the customer and make customers' ownership of their own clickstreams and associated data the starting point?
With such a principle properly established the 'deals' will flow and the industry could get properly off the ground.
Interested? See last week's live, Main Agenda Interactive: Who owns the clickstream? below
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