A discussion on privacy and personalization

It's always interesting when opinionated people meet. Especially when their views are so divergent.

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Recently I was invited by SAP Hybris to attend its summit in Munich (disclosure: SAP Hybris contributed toward my travel and expenses to attend the event). At the event, the company asked a few of the analysts present if we would be prepared to record some short videos that they could use for various public-facing purposes.

As fate would have it, Esteban Kolsky, noted analyst from firm thinkJar, was in the recording studio at the same time as me. Kolsky is a man with strong opinions and someone who, unusually for a person formerly from the traditional analyst world, isn't afraid to voice them. We got talking about personalization and suggested to the film team present that we record a short discussion around our views.

We did so, and it is an interesting glimpse into two very different perspectives on personalization. My perspective is very simple, in that I am more than happy to give up a degree of privacy in order to obtain a better service.

As I mentioned in my example, I drink coffee and am something of a snob when it comes to coffee rituals. I have a distaste for big-chain coffees and the ridiculous concoctions served up at places like Starbucks. I, therefore, gave the example that Google (as an example of a vendor that uses this personalized information) is able to know, through tracking my movements and habits, that I am a coffee fan. Now if I'm in a new city, and Google proactively sends me a notification that there is a coffee establishment nearby that meets my particular requirements, then that is a win for me. Yes, I might have given up a degree of privacy to Google in order for it to deliver that information, but the value I get out of the information, in my view, makes up for that.

As I mentioned to Kolsky, many people suggest that personalization is a one-way street with all the value going from us, the consumers, back to the vendors. The reality is different: I believe that I obtain as much value from the personalization being delivered to me as I give back to the vendors in terms of monetizable information.

Anyway -- it was great to chat to Kolsky about this stuff and hear the views of someone who sees things differently. Check out the video below -- and feel free to comment on your thoughts.

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