Know Anyone Who Wants To Be Targeted?

Do you – or anyone you know – really want to be targeted?

Just the term conjures up images of bulls-eyes, shooting ranges and scenes from the movie Minority Report. Little wonder that we don’t have a desire to be targeted. Yet targeting is core to marketing in all its forms, from creating and maintaining a database to developing an online/offline strategy. And every so often – and it is becoming quite often — the discussion about targeting also triggers a debate about personal privacy.

Understandably, it’s a volatile issue that raises as many tempers as it does questions. Case in point: the backlash when people learned the truth about Facebook’s privacy policies and the company’s tepid initial response. This week we learned the details about how Apple collects location information from iPhone devices (and hence, their users) — data it yields to help marketers target consumers.

Apple’s policy should be no surprise to iPhone users. The intent to collect and share this personal data is spelled out in the company’s terms and conditions. It states: ““Apple and its partners and licensees may provide certain services through your iPhone that rely upon location information. To provide and improve these services, where available, Apple and its partners and licensees may transmit, collect, maintain, process and use your location data, including the real-time geographic location of your iPhone, and location search queries. The location data and queries collected by Apple are collected in a form that does not personally identify you and may be used by Apple and its partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services.” It continues: “By using any location-based services on your iPhone, you agree and consent to Apple’s and its partners’ and licensees’ transmission, collection, maintenance, processing and use of your location data and queries to provide and improve such products and services. You may withdraw this consent at any time by going to the Location Services setting on your iPhone and either turning off the global Location Services setting or turning off the individual location settings of each location-aware application on your iPhone. Not using these location features will not impact the non location-based functionality of your iPhone. When using third party applications or services on the iPhone that use or provide location data, you are subject to and should review such third party’s terms and privacy policy on use of location data by such third party applications or services.”

 Detailed? Yes. Completely transparent and understandable? Well, maybe.

Does it comfort people and put their minds at ease? Not a chance. Where this issue is headed it easy enough to predict. Think of the money (billions of dollars) involved in targeting and marketing. Despite politicians getting into the conversation this week, it’s not likely that we can expect dramatic changes forced by regulators, at least not any time soon. You know where President Barack Obama went this week, right? To Facebook to get a photo opportunity with Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg also moderated a town hall event — no doubt to show off Obama’s social media savvy just as the run-up to the 2012 elections begins.

So, where will the debate about personal privacy likely lead? It will likely stall, a development that will only accelerate demand by consumers for terms and conditions (related to targeting, advertising and location, for example) that are clearly visible, completely transparent and 100-percent understandable. What will work? Ultimately, it’s all about the consumer and getting their permission. If they want to be targeted (because it ensures they will get offers they really want) or enter into a reward arrangement such as a mobile loyalty club, then they will tell us. Any other approach (that doesn’t require opt-in) is likely to backfire.

(More from my MSearchGroove column here