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Facebook Was Just the Start, Soon Your Fridge Will Be Sharing Your Data

Advertising Agency
Mexico City, Mexico
INFLUENCER: McCann Mexico's Ana Marin discusses commercial use of data and what the future might hold

After Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional hearing, the issue of Cambridge Analytica is still being addressed. During Facebook’s F8 event that took place on May 1st, the social network shared its plans to better protect their users’ data. They will audit and restrict access to each and every app that request information from the platform. This is good news, but I think that the public opinion reaction was too little too late, since the first time I read about the company that helped Trump win the election was in January 2017.

It took the news almost a year to reach the headlines and it did only because 'someone' explained precision targeting to tech challenged congressmen. But what happened with the shady data firm is not so different to what SheIn and other retailers do on a regular basis, but with swimsuits and gowns instead of US candidates. 

Commercial use of data has been the cornerstone of relational marketing way before airlines came up with their mileage plans. The difference nowadays is that the major digital contenders like Google and Facebook are drawing a more comprehensive profile on all of us. The first one knows the exact time we leave our home in the morning and our darkest thoughts based on our searches, the latter can predict if our relationships will last and Amazon knows what we want before we buy it. It’s creepy, but it has a bright side as well. Data collection and machine learning based predictions are drawing a future where things (IoT) and companies may take better care of our health than we do.

Think about this: Very soon a company will know that you gained some weight by receiving data from your Withings scale, and since you’ll be wearing a smartwatch, that company will also know if you are having enough physical activity. By connecting to your fridge, they will design a personalised fitness program based on your tastes and purchasing history. And the same devices that ratted on your sweet tooth, will be the ones helping you to keep on your diet… unless you also have a secret dash button somewhere near your bed. 

But if we don’t read the terms and conditions before opting into these services, we will be as outraged as we are with Facebook when we realise that Nike, Pfizer and Weight Watchers paid obscene amounts of money to dig into our profiles and are tailoring irresistible offers for people with our same characteristics. 

The problem is that technology is something that is happening to us, with no real effort from our end to understand its implications and no clear strategy to prevent Black Mirror scenarios like the one we faced with Cambridge Analytica. The amount of personal data that we and our devices share is only going to increase, and as long as we assume that someone else will care for our digital well-being, we’ll be at 'someone else’s' mercy. 

Europe is leading the way in terms of privacy with their GDPR. But as citizens, we should be active participants in the conversation about what affects us online, all over the world.  

I really enjoy being served a 5% discount on Facebook after I abandoned a shopping cart because I wasn’t sure about purchasing something. And I can only hope for better advertising and seamless predictive services that only improve the way I live. Let’s work together to achieve that. 

Ana Marin is digital integration director at McCann Worldgroup Mexico

Work from McCann Worldgroup Mexico City
Animal Politico