Privacy versus Personalization


Most agree that an important trend in e-commerce is personalization. This is even more essential in the mobile environment where location, context and personalization form the cornerstone for mobile search and marketing. Disturbing news of late around how mobile devices collect our information has created shockwaves across the Web. This includes the most recent reports on Carrier IQ and how it may be tracking every keystroke and behavior on your mobile phone to the revelation that the new Kindle Fire Silk Browser collects all your online behavior automatically suggesting Web content. Combine this with major efforts in and out of the travel industry to use your social graph to understand your preferences, the balance between privacy and personalization has clearly emerged as a major battleground between protecting your personal information and delivering relevant content.

There are heated debates online with some saying privacy is dead, so get over it, while others looking for government intervention to prevent unwanted spying. Over the last few years a similar uproar arose over the issue of behavioral targeting used to deliver ads. So how much information are travelers willing to disclose to get a more personalized offers? Where is the line drawn between more relevant content and invasion of privacy? From my perspective it is all about control. Consumers and in our industry, travelers, must feel like they are in control of their information. The amount of control may represent a generational divide where Baby Boomers like myself are more reluctant to share personal details online than the Millennial Generation. No matter how personalized the delivery of content, under cover spying is unacceptable and in some cases may simply be illegal. I encourage the industry to balance the need for personalized information by being transparent in the way information is being collected and used to deliver more personalized content.

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