The End of Anonymity


Remember the good old days? Back when we were all anonymous nobodies? Well, those days appear to be gone for good. From Facebook to the NSA, it seems the whole world is keeping tabs on us. According to a recent SONARTM survey conducted by advertising giant JWT, 9 out of 10 people interviewed believe it is getting harder to stay anonymous both online and in real life. 87% of those surveyed feel that companies are not concerned enough about their privacy. Two-thirds confessed to feeling anxious about technology’s probing eye. But half of those people say they do not mind being tracked or retargeted as long as it benefits them in some way.

According to the poll Millennials were just as concerned about this loss of privacy as the Baby Boomers. But, of course, businesses and the government are not digging through our trash to discover things about us. This is information that we are voluntarily surrendering on something called the worldwide web. Every time we allow an app like Angry Birds to know our location or upload a selfie on Instagram we are displaying the discretion and reserve of a public exhibitionist. So what do we expect?

“People want to share and they gain a lot from sharing,” argues Dr. Dana Boyd, senior researcher at Microsoft, “But that’s different than saying that people want to be exposed by others.”

Wanting things both ways is just part of the human condition. And the very idea of a right to privacy is definitely evolving.

“The man who invented the right to privacy, Louis Brandeis, was appalled that ordinary newsmen could snap his picture and print it in the paper,” explains Stewart Baker, a DC lawyer at Steptoe and Johnson. “But no one today thinks that photography is a privacy violation. We’ve adjusted to the new technology.”
This shift, of course, is a windfall for marketers. With this sort of ready intelligence we can tailor our online messages right down to the individual’s wants, needs and current location. This is an amazing opportunity. Shoot, we could even put their picture in the ads if we wanted. But that, according to the JWT survey, might feel just a little creepy.

We are a Dallas Advertising Agency specializing in integrated marketing.