Want Trust? Stop Being Creepy with Big Data

Jake Freivald's picture
 By | August 16, 2013
in big data, Business Intelligence, strategy, Centimark Corp., Houston Community College System, Walsworth Publishing, Customer-Facing BI, Big Data
August 16, 2013

Nosferatu would be proud of the way many companies use Big Data to stalk their prey.

"Can corporations, government, and their data continue to grow bigger without relationships and trust growing smaller?"

That's the question posed by Robert Hall, a consultant and "relationship speaker" (is that anything like a horse whisperer?), on the Huffington Post yesterday.

The answer seems obvious, at first, with an onslaught of words and phrases that can overwhelm us with a sense of information insecurity: NSA (especially with "Prism," "Snowden," and "FISA"), Gmail (especially when coupled with "no expectation of privacy"), Facebook (especially "graph search"), DHS, TSA (especially "VIPR" and "warrentless search")... not to mention "Big Data" all by itself.

In his blog post, Hall notes that people's trust declines if they feel like they're being spied on -- not exactly a shocker -- which means that collection of big data is likely to make people distrust the companies that are collecting it. This is true even if the companies are doing it "for our own good." (Remember "How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did"?)

How can we convince our customers that we're using the power of Big Data for good rather than eeeevil?

Let's go to the basics: Stop being creepy, and start sharing the information you collect with your customers.

We all know that when people get into a deep and trusting relationship, they share a ton of information. It's expected. It's wanted.

But unless the communication is two-way, it's just not cool. When one person decides to collect a ton of information on another without permission and without sharing it with the other person -- in other words, when he's a stalker rather than a communicator -- the other person tends to get a restraining order. We should expect nothing less from our customers.

Sharing information with customers -- letting them analyze your relationship with them -- tends to make them more loyal to you. It tends to make worse into better and poorer into richer. That's one of the reasons that customer-facing analytics is so important, and such a growing part of the business intelligence industry.

Our clients regularly communicate with their customers (e.g., Centimark) and constituents (e.g., Houston Community College), even providing details of projects to improve collaboration (e.g., Walsworth Publishing). If you're collecting Big Data about your customers and want to engender trust, consider doing something similar. You and your customers will be glad you did.