Will Dashboard restore faith in online?

Transparency, choice and control have all been promised by Google upon its launch of Google Dashboard – the new way to know exactly what data Google stores about you in its user accounts. But will this really ease the inherent consumer fears that have dogged the digital industry for so many years?

joe fernandez

Digital marketing has been shrouded by scaremongering over recent years from data losses and spoof e-commerce sites to the copious amounts of spam that continue to swamp inboxes – so will the king of search manage to convert troubled minds? I just don’t think so.

Cast your mind back to the summer of 2007 and controversial technology Phorm’s inception as a spyware developer under the name 121Media, The news that covert behavioural targeting trials had been conducted by BT on customer data resulted in a public backlash and the technology has since failed to take off.

Has the situation changed? Well, it seems not. A poll, conducted by security firm Symantec that was published last week, questioned UK consumers on how safe they felt their personal information was, using a score of one to six, with one being the highest.

At the top of the list was the banking sector, scoring three, with online retailers coming last with a score of 3.7. The company says that the reason for this was most probably due to the ‘many high-profile instances of data loss and stolen personal information in the past few months.

It’s this lack of trust, which makes online marketing appear to be too much of a risk to some marketers. While its potential to generate engaging content and create compelling dialogues with consumers is unquestionable – note the ITV revenues (story below) and voucher site MyVoucherCodes generating £481m worth of sales in the last financial year, up 71% on sales – convincing certain generations that data is safe and will not be abused remains a challenge.

As Sir Martin Sorrell pointed out this year, some marketers and consumers “tend to be of an older vintage, to put it politely, who tend to be resistant to change”. Our guest columnist, Meera Chandra, managing director of WPP-owned agency delves further into how consumers behave differently in the on and offline worlds.

The good-practice guidelines and consumer education promised by the Internet Advertising Bureau and key industry players such as Google, AOL and Microsoft is a start. But bringing credibility to the industry and making digital marketing suitable for all audiences still has many hurdles to overcome before it can become the norm.

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