T-Mobile scandal leaves data protection in tatters

The news that a T-Mobile employee had access to thousands of customer’s private and confidential contract data – and was able to sell it to third party sales houses – has sparked fury from both consumers and industry professionals. It has also awoken concerns over just how safe it is to provide such data to brands in the first place, which could have dire consequences for any online marketer.

It’s not exactly a new phenomenon to see data being lost or mishandled, but for brands, the misery caused can often have long-lasting negative effects. This is hardly the best timing for T-Mobile, which is waiting to have its merger with Orange completed.

For digital marketers, it also raises some more far-reaching questions. If a company as large as T-Mobile or even some government departments can have data procedures broken like that, then how can simple encryption and confidentiality promises be enough to warrant handing over such information?

The Information Commissioners Office is hoping that this latest instance of data loss will allow it to change current legislation/ It wants to seek custodial sentences as well as fines for future instances, which could help reassure consumers that their information is taken seriously.

However, the industry needs to be more active in encouraging customers to be more responsive to such issues. One other story that caught my eyes this week was the patent that Apple has filed to potentially launch an ad-supported Mac or iPhone, available for lower costs than those at which they currently retail.

The reported concept is that consumers will have to view or listen to ads carefully and will be asked to evaluate them afterwards to prove they paid attention. It will be interesting to see if the patent develops into an actual product and just how many consumers will subject themselves to a series of ads in order to enjoy their Apple product.

According to the European Interactive Advertising Association, 83% of marketers increased online advertising spend during 2009 with 94% planning to increase in 2010.

Such growth predictions are encouraging for the industry. Yet the increases in spend need to be matched by a strengthened focus on easing consumer concerns about topical issues such as data protection. Failure to do so will leave digital sceptics uncertain over just how worthwhile the industry is. A backlash is the worst kind of marketing, after all.

On a lighter note, its Children in Need tonight and fundraising has well and truly begun. The best campaign to reach my inbox came from Asda , who are hoping to raise £10,000 through their Just Giving site to gunge its chief marketing officer Rick Bendel live at Asda House today. It’s just one of many fun ways people will be using digital to donate tonight – how will you interact with the telathon night?

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