Greetings from Me, My Data and I

Maybe it is a throwback to my university days where I studied sociology and had an idealistic leaning towards the Frankfurt School of Thought, but recently the debate over consumer control has been piquing my interest. To be more specific, consumer control over their personal information or any other data that might be out there in the digital world.
I have been working in the Market Research Industry for 15 years mainly in data collection and more recently passive data collection. Passive data collection is a wonderful development for organisations, not only can they measure what people say but now they can see where people go, what they browse, what they do within apps and what advertisements they have been exposed to as well as their purchase data. This information gives organisations huge insight into not only segmented consumer behaviour but now they have a windo into our individual behavior, needs, desires, interests and intentions.
The Frankfurt School and passive data collection may not seem to be natural bedfellows for discussion but there is something that connects them, and he is Edward Bernays. I have long been fascinated by Edward Bernays who was a pioneer in the world of public relations using theories on crowd persuasion as well as psychoanalysis by his uncle Sigmund Freud. The most famous example being his campaign for “torches of freedom”. From Bernays came affective mass persuasion and the birth of the consumer culture. Consumer culture was persuading ‘us’ the consumer to desire stuff! The more stuff we desire the more stuff we purchase, driving growth and a stronger economy resulting in political stability. The Frankfurt School argues that we the mass population are deluded about our objective interests because of distortions in communication or advertising.
I am a long way from my University days and enjoy my career within the Market Research World, organisations use data to gain insight, target customers and stay competitive. It isn’t all about advertising, awareness and desire but also about product testing, satisfaction, loyalty… all these things can truly make a customer experience all the more positive and valuable.
What I find interesting now is the likelihood of the consumer regaining control over their data and using it to continue to get more benefits as a customer.  As a customer I want to become more active in what happens to my information and ensure that I am getting more benefits.
Ctrl-shift ( has been doing a lot of research into the Personal Data Economy and the impact that Personal Information Services (PIMS) may have; particularly in my industry. A service where your personal data is managed for you to help you make better decisions or manage tasks; or taking it a step further act as a broker for your Personal Information, this we know has value!
In this blog I will be exploring developments and innovation around our digital footprints and how this actually can empower us ‘the customer’ (or not).
What do you think?


  1. “Passive Interested – or Passive Stupid?” Hi Suzanne, I like some of your themes here. “Passive data collection” is intriguing as a phrase – one which the market research industry uses easily yet why should we as people/consumers be “passive” about our data about what we do (behaviour) being collected?! What’s in it for us as people? Why should I be passive about an organization watching what I do?

    The answer feels to be that we as consumers have an ever increasing – exciting power to consumers giving, power to consumer shifting position as you suggest. I personally am not passive about much/anything! And I certainly aren’t passive about my data being collected for the benefit of an organization for that organizations benefit alone! But, and this is the key, if there is something in it for me that makes the sharing of what I am doing something that can help my trusted (“trust” – a very important caveat here for another discussion) relationship with the businesses/brands which I buy from better for me, and they don’t come in from left field and take the p*ss by selling me stuff that isn’t from a trusted person, then there may be a two way deal that works for us both. And then I am passive interested – rather than passive stupid – the later as so many businesses currently seem to assume their customers, consumers, people are…which is not sustainable…

  2. Thanks Andrew. I agree empowering the consumer and giving them ownership of all personal data collected by any organisation is a good thing, the consumer may actually be more engaged and be a more willing partner and be able to provide richer data – a true 360 view. I do believe there is a good opportunity to work with customer and help them take a little bit more control of their information for the benefit of all.

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