The Matrix

“Are we living in The Matrix?”  is actually a question nobody has bothered asking me on the tube this week, even though I was wearing dark glasses and full length black trenchcoat whilst attempting a 360 degree backflip over the ticket gates at Farringdon (I tweaked a hamstring if you’re interested.) However, It does seem to be a question bubbling up in conference presentations to help frame discussions about big data and the increasing reach and power of organisations such as Google. The question has been become even more relevant with the revelations around project Prism and the mechanisms our governments can use to potentially circumvent the laws they themselves created.

To some extent marketers face the same dilemma as government. They want to be a part of the new Oil boom that is Big Data. They want to drill into fossilised databases across the enterprise and to distil the results into barrels of actionable insights about people and their behaviours. But they don’t want behave irresponsibly or illegally and they want the data they’re drilling into to be fresh and relevant.

There’s a degree of ignorance and fatalism among individuals about privacy and the data which organisations collect and store about them. People seem pretty comfortable handing over their data for the promise of an enhanced online experience of a 20% off voucher. I doubt whether many people, and I include myself in this,  pay any attention to cookie banners which pop-up to say “hey we’re gonna collect some information about you but don’t worry it’ll all be OK so just carry on clicking”. Why bother fighting the “The Matrix” when you can get along just fine within it.

There are ways in which individuals can take control of who has access to their personal data and what they use it for. You can police your own actions and rigorously enforce your own policies as you flit from site to site.

For those of us without CPU for brains there are services such as mydex.org which provide personal data repositories. Realise are not affiliated with MyDex in any way,  and they do a better job than I could of telling you what they’re about.  One thing that they enable the user to do is to create a single instance of information about themselves and then effectively license other organisations to access and use that data.

So if, like me, your partner forced you to move house 4 times in ten years, you could update all organisations who hold your address details with one transaction. For marketers they can connect with individuals who are interested in their services and have access to up-to-date information in repositories they themselves don’t have to manage.

I going to give it a go and see if I can’t seize back a bit of control and create my own Matrix. They seem to have limited partners at the moment but I guess the more subscribers they have the more organisations will listen to them.

In the meantime its back to the dark glasses and trenchcoat for my journey home. I’m going to see if pedalling my Boris Bike fast enough will propel me into “bullet time”. I’ll let you know how my hamstring stands up.