Beware. Big brother’s watching.
That’s the sentiment from a recent consumer survey by Prophet which reveals people have low levels of trust for Facebook and Google compared to other technology brands like Apple, Microsoft and Netflix.
According to the market research firm’s Brand Relevance Index, Facebook and Google didn’t make the top 50 most relevant brands because they performed poorly in terms of consumer trust. Facebook had a trust ranking of 200 and Google 130 out of 400 brands. Technology giants Apple, Microsoft and Netflix respectively ranked number 1, 3 and 4 as the most relevant brands.
Prophet compared a total of 400 brands across 27 different industries while surveying 10,000 consumers.
“What’s happening in this category is that technology companies are finding themselves in an environment that’s increasingly characterized by lack of clarity,”Jesse Purewal, associate partner at Prophet, tells AdWeek. “When you wake up every morning, it seems like you see another story on Google and the EU squaring off on privacy—or Facebook having a lack of clarity about what’s being shared.”
Okay, so we get it.
People fear that their baby pictures on Facebook might show up in an online ad, nor do they appreciate that Google scans their emails for useful content to help target the ads they see. Concerns about data privacy and security have given rise to consumer unease with the marketing practices of Facebook and Google.
But should consumers really be concerned? Should they be able to control how companies collect and use their personal data?
We know that consumer consent is frequently not given when these online marketing practices take place. But we also know that targeting ads to a specific segment of the population is nothing new.
“It’s simply not true to say that Google or Facebook are selling off your data: what they are doing is promising advertisers they will display their ads to a particular type of customer, as defined by the advertiser using Google or Facebook’s provided parameters,” says technology writer and analyst Ben Thompson.
Maybe people should be okay giving up some of their privacy in order to receive more relevant and personalized services?
Take the accommodations website Airbnb, for example. When you enter lifestyle information about your interests, likes and dislikes into your personal profile that data is used by the host to better understand the type of person you are. Your host can then make your stay a little bit more enjoyable by offering little gifts, like say a coupon for the best Mexican restaurant in town since you mentioned you were a Mexican food lover.
Ah, but we hear your cries. “That lifestyle information is given to the Airbnb community voluntarily! Facebook and Google steal people’s information unknowingly.”
Perhaps. But if you were a single 29 year-old male who loves snowboarding, wouldn’t you rather see an online ad for Burton instead of Pampers?
It’s worth noting that it’s not just consumers who are concerned with online privacy issues. Marketers have expressed unease about the potential to turn off consumers with the liberal collection and use of their data. A recent study by AdGear agency shows that 42 percent of Canadian marketing executives believe that data-use is alienating consumers.
Yet buried among this whole debate is the very real issue of customer loyalty. Research shows that trust in a brand is equated with loyalty, and loyalty is essential for a brand’s continued success. When competitors enter the marketplace, some argue that the Facebooks and Googles of the world might face extinction.
“A brand like Facebook could have the fate of an AOL or a MySpace if they don’t maintain the trust of users,” Purewal says.
So there you have it, folks. Whether you’re comfortable with the use of your personal data for advertising purposes or not, one thing we know for certain is that — unless you make a living filing class action lawsuits — there isn’t much you can do to change it. At least not now.