Every couple weeks I visit my local Supercuts. I don’t always get the perfect cut, but it’s inexpensive and the folks that work there are really nice. Most important, though, is that Supercuts remembers who I am. When I walk in, they ask for my name and phone number, enter it in their system, and they get a note back with how long since my last haircut as well as how I like it (#3 around with scissor cut on the top, standing part).
Utilizing the (private) information I’ve provided makes my user experience with Supercuts better and keeps me coming back. Interesting concept, huh? I love frequenting places where they remember my name, how I like my coffee, how I like my shirts starched, or even how I like my hair cut! I come back over and over because the experience is so much better. I’ve stayed at some fantastic hotels where I was amazed when the concierge made it a point to remember my name. It’s that little bit of effort that keeps me returning and expanding my business. Companies that collect and use data are both successful and appreciated.
My tools, sites, and habits online should be no different, right? I submit information… sometimes personal information… to online sites and systems in order to improve my experience with them. Amazon closely tracks my purchases and then recommends additional items that I might be interested in. If I go to a great blog, the Google Adwords accompanying the content might point me to a product or service I’m interested in. If I comment on a friend’s site, my information may be kept in a Cookie so it displays so I don’t have to fill out the information again. This is fantastic! It saves me time and gets me better results. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
The fact that every action and chunk of data you put on the Internet can be utilized to improve your user experience is fantastic, not a problem. The data are collected voluntarily, of course. You need not accept cookies, login to websites, use others, or even connect to the Internet at all. To me, privacy isn’t the issue at all, security is the issue. Privacy International recently went after Google giving them the worst ratings ever on ‘privacy’. As I read the article, I really thought it was a shoddy thing to do. Google’s collection of data are purely to build better experiences for its users as well as connect business to consumers.
Famed Googler, Matt Cutts responded to Privacy International with a detailed response that I thought really nailed it. Google does an incredible job with security – when is the last time you heard about private data being hacked or released by accident from Google?
Google doesn’t sell the data to anyone, their model is to allow businesses to access their system, consumers to access it, and Google connects the two of them. That’s an incredible approach and one that’s appreciated by me. I want Google to learn so much about me that my experience utilizing their software gets better and better every day. I want to reach the companies that they recommend to me – who may have product or services I may be interested in.
How would Privacy International rank Supercuts who track how often I visit, who my family members are, and what our haircut preferences are? I’m guessing they would want Supercuts to stop collecting that information. I would then have to explain myself every time I visit… until I stopped and found someone else who did keep track.
I suppose the bottom line is this… companies that abuse your data should be avoided, but companies that use your data should be rewarded. Don’t stop tracking me, Google! I like the user experience you provide.