Tag Archives: data

ecosystem hits the trifecta

paying a company to own my data

Opposed as I am to   -1 corporation to rule them all, 1 corporation to bind me –(apologies to the late Mr. Tolkien), somehow it seems I’m willing to sacrifice privacy for convenience. I’ve warned students & clients of Applied Research ‘Sirens‘ – a term I use for topics where Research respondents are more likely to lead us astray, intentionally or not.

One ‘Overstatement’ Siren is driven by guilt that drives us to overstate out intent to ‘be responsible’ -eg I may overstate my intent that in future I’ll (mos def!) safeguard my data & enforce my privacy rights.

That intent will, sadly, conflict with an opposing ‘Understatement’ Siren– the temptation of …. convenience! Why do you spend $1.69 for 1 pack of gum or 1 chocolate bar at a Food store checkout, if a pack of such items just 50 feet away in the candy aisle, is priced at 4 for $3? Convenience! Why pay $75 for someone to wash your windows if all it takes is 1 hour work and $2 of cleaning supplies? Convenience! Consumer are rarely honest in advance about how they will  succumb to the Siren of Convenience.

A couple days ago, I gave in – and let a Cupertino CA firm to hold sway over ever more of me. They had my hardware purchase (an iPhone), software purchase (i-everything). They have the perfect Trifecta– I now pay them to own my data!  And presumably, according to the contract, allow them to do with my data pretty much whatever they wish. It’s merely more convenient for me to leave 1 ecosystem in charge. The advantages of integration seemed, in the moment, to outweigh the drawbacks of lost control and privacy.

The Sirens are winning – again.


California (Dualistic) Dreaming….

Another California court ruling this week defends fb versus another eavesdropping lawsuit. https://www.dailydot.com/debug/facebook-privacy-lawsuit-dismissed/

Many of us see California at a dualistic forefront of tech jobs + privacy legislation. This won’t be the last time we see such an issue contested in court!

Important principles are at stake. I expect more deep-pocketed, highly resolved litigants will again challenge social media data gathering & data sharing practices. As someone who once worked where consumer data was gathered & sold, I think it’s fair to say that…. ethical & legal practice constraints are sometimes at odds with more practical, material temptations. So let’s all watch these battles with interest- and caution.


Loyalty and Data – decisions galore!

As one of the oddballs who worked in both the ‘product’ and ‘service’ sectors on both sides of the USA-Canada border, I’ve seen many loyalty programs arrive, and others go bust. Researching what consumers want from their loyalty programs may seem easy (compelling savings rate, relevant incentives to redeem, VIP treatment, respect, easy visible point status, instantly redeemable, few ‘conditions’ or delays to redeem, etc).

Believe it or not- loyalty program design is actually fun! What’s not ‘fun’? Running one! ie if you think running a loyalty program is easy, think again!

These are LOYALTY programs- every move you make is visible to your most valuable players (MVP’s); a misstep is costly- a lesson that some Loyalty ‘experts’ seem reluctant to accept (Air Miles?). In fact, running a loyalty program is so daunting that Canada’s largest grocer, Loblaws resisted implementing one (decades after Metro, Sobeys and Safeway all had one), until their I.T. system had been upgraded and they had access to lessons learned on recently acquired (and admirably run) SDM Optimum program. Better to not launch at all, than launch badly and ruin the brand’s  relationship with MVP’s. Props for the patience and maturity to take that path on that timeline!

And now Nordstrom’s is launching a Visa-based loyalty card.


Why not start their own loyalty program, on their own? Because that would be costly in terms of resource and risk, especially…

  1. Infrastructure complexity & costs
  2. Data security responsibilities/ liability

Well, okay, so now it seems obvious that every firm should just partner up with AirMiles, or Visa or Mastercard or Amex, right? Right?

Well now consider what the downsides of a ‘private label’ loyalty arrangement might be:

  1. you don’t own the data – for modeling, or other analysis (you’re always requesting the data)
  2. you probably won’t get ‘full picture’ data (how they shop/behave across categories, payment methods, channels)
  3. you don’t control ways to access consumers

That’s a sobering list of drawbacks to going the Private Label route, as Nordstrom’s seems to have done.

Can’t really have it all, can you? But then again, decades of experience with loyalty programs teaches us that ‘easy’ doesn’t describe loyalty management, nor the decisions that accompany loyalty management programs. Tread with care!

-and a Financial Post  follow up on Loyalty Cards just a day later:


Steven Litt

Privacy Issues Front & Center this week

Security- image via Vectors Market (the noun project)

Security- image via Vectors Market (the noun project)

TWO articles today highlight the need to treat personal data with care.



  1. Ontario Hospital workers face ‘stiffer’** penalties for again spilling patient information; they sold New Mom’s hospital records to a firm pitching Registered Education Savings Plans (an iffy ‘savings’ vehicle at best of times, given how the tax system treats them and the ‘varied’ morals of firms pitching them). Prosecuted in Ontario- penalties included house arrest, community service, probation, fines.
  2.  Questionable data ‘security’ practises at Ashley Madison’: eg iffy accuracy of security logos shown, iffy data security precautions, holding onto ‘unsubscribed’ member data, apparently to leverage further fees for the privilege of leaving this dubious service. Prosecuted in USA- final penalties TBD.

In both cases, customer data was easily compromised. This is the second recent  breach by Ontario Hospitals staffers, raising questions whether adequate penalties exist for those with the privilege & burden to hold customer data. Canada is home to global telemarketing firms, online gambling sites, weight loss & nutraceutical sellers who play fast & loose with claim substantiation, charities that enrich the charity’s administrators. Many firms locate here due to weak investigation staffing and weak penalties for those who are caught. When was the last time White Collar crime in Canada resulted in actual jail time?

**Ontario’s government recently signaled more support to the Ontario Security Commission, more teeth to prosecute breaches & enforce data privacy. Justice Caldwell’s penalties in this case are less wimpy than what has sadly become the norm here (eg just fines, for the Rob Ford case). Stronger signals indeed, but more is needed! (perhaps stiffer federal standards, Mr Prime Minister?).

Despite Canada’s reputation as an ‘equal’ society, folks committing ‘white collar’ crime rarely face a weighty deterrent. Some Canuck fraudsters (a certain newspaper mogul?) are prosecuted only after their crime affects American victims. On behalf of customers whose data is ‘out there’ in trust, Thanks to the USA for having the guts & the will to give teeth to white collar standards of conduct. The USA is hampered by some frivolous 1 on 1 litigation & class action suits, but they don’t shield ‘upper class’ criminals from jail. America knows ‘nonviolent’ crime does harm individuals and undermine trust in customer-based organizations.