So we’re about a month and a half into GDPR, and it seems that many companies haven’t really taken that much notice of the new laws. There’s lots of companies paying lip-service to GDPR, but many of their policies and actual activities are still in conflict with the new legislation. I do note that spam has tailed off quite significantly, but there are still a fair few suspect mailers in my spam folder. I am also still getting some weird and wonderful unsolicited propositions including lots of people still trying to sell me somewhat dubious direct mailing lists which are surely in direct and flagrant breach of the laws.
There’s still barely a week that goes by without the unearthing of yet another Facebook privacy scandal - where users’ details and their entire phone contact lists have been sold to shady opportunists and often dodgy outfits with cybercriminal associations, including several unspecified Russian parties. Facebook has had an advertising campaign out recently to allay consumer fears - promising more responsible management of their customers’s privacy details - while all the time trying to sell those same details onto all and sundry - with little or no pre-qualifiers - there is really no knowing who Facebook sold your details to or where your details may be circulating now.
Facebook has not altered its business model one iota - they are still largely consumer exploitative vs consumer protective. And they are far from the only guilty party here - various social media companies employ similar business practices, and in fact I have encountered a barrage of unsolicited cold calls after registering for Dominos Pizza and giving my phone number so that the courier could contact me in case they got lost. Dominos kept changing the language of their sign-up pages so you were never really 100% clear whether you were opting in or out. And several times I noted slight change in sentence construction to catch the consumer out. All of this is supposed to be wholly verboten with GDPR, and yet I still see sneaky sites trying to use sly language to catch the consumer out - also those permission statements are supposed to be specific and explicit, yet a large number of them are written to enable the ongoing blanket bombing style of email campaigns.
To Facebook and Dominos, we can also add several publishers who are playing it fast and loose with their actual end users, and putting the needs and wants of their sponsors way above those of their consumers. I would still say that there are some dubious ethics at play and that many publishers forget that without their readership / end-users - there would be no business at all. I don’t mind if there is a sprinkling of banner ads - as long as I have choices and rights. On YouTube for instance I can buy an add-free experience, and I think everyone should provide that option - so that consumers can better control their environment. Also on Facebook and YouTube you also have the ’not for me’ function where you can sort of sensor your own adds - and help the system log your preferences.
I feel that following on from GDPR - companies need to properly lay out their stall and define exactly how they are complying with GDPR, and what rights they are according to their customers. Very few businesses nowadays have a proper Customer/ Consumer Charter - whereby they enshrine customer rights and protections within a prominent and universally accessibly proclamation. Many companies are actually doing the opposite - trying to find workarounds and ways of cheating GDPR - so that they can continue to exploit their ’customers’.
In amongst all this though is also the spectre of advertising fatigue and consumer paralysis - we’ve been targeted so much these last few years that we are now wholly numb to any kind of direct marketing. I can stare at a billboard and almost see through to the other side - I’m almost blind to those now. I’ve also not deliberately clicked on a banner add in probably a decade too - by which I mean I have sometimes accidentally clicked on embedded banners on mobile pages - when simply trying to scroll the screen up or down. As a policy though I will ignore clicking on banners - if I see something relevant and of interest, I will first google it and then go from those resulting links - which also funnily enough are being tracked and monetised in their own way.
I’m still deciding upon my long-term relationship / future with Facebook - I really don’t trust them in the slightest, but it’s THE place I still connect with friends and family - particularly across countries, and I also subscribe to a tonne of my favourite brands, products, lifestyle entities, musicians and personalities - and I can’t see any obvious alternative right now. Yet none of these companies would be anything without their consumers - is it not about time that these businesses start putting their customers first again?