The NSA, Big Data and Digital Marketing

There’s a lot of teeth gnashing, pulling of hair and chest beating happening over the so-called NSA “Spying Scandal” that has me realizing most people don’t truly understand what is happening. Regardless of the legality of the NSA getting this information about Americans and using it for the war on terror, I wanted to enlighten you on how marketers are doing the same thing with data when it comes to trying to sell you what you want while online.

Big Data | Mid-West Digital MarketingThe buzzword in the digital world right now is “Big Data”. What the NSA did was collect huge amounts of anonymous data from you and me and millions of other Americans, while online or using their smartphones, used a computer program to “mine” the data and categorize it with known terrorist activity. If they saw a trend, the NSA got a court order to find out who that data belonged to and they started tracking you and seeing your possible terrorist connections. If there was one, your information was turned over to the FBI.

In the digital marketing world, the same thing happens daily. Your online activity is recorded and marketers are able to retarget you with ads when you are searching Google, scanning Facebook and hanging out on websites reading information or playing games. This is why when you shopped for shoes the other day on a business website but never made the purchase, that website follows you around as you surf the net to try and get you back to make the purchase.

What does this mean to you? It’s actually good news. It means we can target you with what you want to see and not garbage ads. We don’t know who you are, but we know what you want.

This is a question of “self-regulation”. While digital marketers, just like the government, are asking you to trust us to self-regulate, you have to take that leap that we are.