The acronym PII (personally identifiable information) is becoming important in the marketing industry. Why? Well, the outcry seems universal that people don’t want brands, marketers, or retailers touching their PII. But does that complaint even make sense? Consider the following:

  • Google saves search data on everyone who uses their service, and no one seems to care. In fact, when Google uses that data to provide ads at the top and side of every search we perform, we don’t bat an eye. Google is basically leveraging our data to control how much retailers will pay for those ads.
  • Facebook (and soon Instagram) uses our PII to determine how things appear in our feeds. The fact is that the average person has so many friends online that they miss a great deal of what gets posted. Facebook makes up for this by using your PII to determine what is most important to you. Then you see that content first on your feed rather than getting everything in chronological order. But no one complains that Facebook leverages data to alter our feeds, and even throws in the occasional sponsored ad.

Double-Standards and Online Privacy

So why is there an industry double standard where your average retailer is a “stalker” if they use your PII, but Google and Facebook act like “Big Brother” without consequences or even anyone crying foul?

The FTC is in charge of regulating things like online privacy. The European Union has yet to establish anything for this. Today the trend in digital is for people to forget about online privacy for the sake of convenience. No one ever seems to bring up privacy until a security breach causes a company to lose the personal information of a number of clients. Then it’s on the 5 o’clock news, and the bad guy is always the brand—but never the hacker.

How do you feel about online privacy and the double standard that exists between a company like Google and your average brand? Feel free to weigh in on this hot topic in the comments section below.