I decided to take my cell phone in the swimming pool with me. Hey, if it were your toddler’s first swimming class, you might do the same. Anyway, my “waterproof” phone case turned out to be, well, not. The result was that all the king’s rice and all the king’s plastic bags could not bring my phone back to life. So the next day I bought a new phone and got to find out just how many of my dog/kid/car pictures were or were not backed up somewhere on the Internet. As it turns out, those cloud services work pretty well. Unsurprisingly, iCloud knew what apps I had on my last phone, and restoration was pretty quick and easy. However, pictures I had only on my phone and all of my text messages were completely gone. No backup anywhere, at least not that anyone would tell me about.
This got me thinking about just how much data is being regularly collected about me. The answer is quite a bit more than you might think. Consumer marketing has become so extremely targeted that now the white leather jacket you briefly considered purchasing on eBay shows up on every page you visit for the next week. It is almost as if the Internet is telling you, “Come on, you know you would look soooo good in this.” That data is big business now, and marketing companies spend plenty of cash to find the folks most likely to buy their products. This is nothing new. Most people accept the fact that they give up a little Internet privacy so that Amazon can suggest that they buy the pair of boots they didn’t know they needed that will go perfectly with that leather jacket. Apparently we love to be upsold more than we thought. Something most people don’t consider is that a wide range of industries, from sports teams to concert promoters to restaurants, are collecting data on their purchasing habits. The result is that our data has become a commodity to be mined, collected, processed, sold, and used in one form or another. This presents significant opportunities for modern companies, but it also comes with some serious risk, as any of these folks will tell you. For a great in-depth legal analysis of how attorneys advise corporate clients engaging in this type of marketing, check out the recent On-Demand Seminar Data Privacy in Sports Marketing.