Privacy vs Convenience

Your data is everywhere. You probably know this but underestimate the full extent of it. Mega digital companies like Facebook and Google collect data on their customers to advertisers for a profit.

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The picture above must be familiar to many of you. A lot of services and websites give you the option to sign in with your Facebook or Google account. There is a price to this convenience however. Facebook and Google shares your information to these websites. At the minimum, Facebook typically shares your public profile while Google typically hands over your email address or mobile number. Some apps get more information than that. An example is Google providing your Google Wallet’s details to an app like Uber.

This feature is highly convenient, however, where do we draw the line?

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In 2018, Facebook ran into some legal problems over its allowance of Cambridge Analytica to mine the personal data of its users. This controversy has sparked debates about consumer privacy.

The current heightened focus on data privacy comes with some drawbacks. Companies use personal data to improve their services, some companies might be afraid to launch certain products or services in fear of the potential backlash should the service not meet current privacy standards.

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Google shut down their Mobile Network Insights in August 2019 after 2 years of running it. Mobile Network Insights shared data from users of Android powered phones. This move was fueled by motivations on not drawing attention and scrutiny from its users and public. The android operating system service helped wireless carriers determine where to extend or upgrade their mobile coverage and its removal could negatively affect users’ mobile speeds.

Privacy or convenience? I would personally choose convenience but that’s just me. I am sure that this debate will continue to be a hot topic as the world becomes more digitalised.

Google’s Monopoly

What do you do when you need to find out something that you do not know? You Google it.

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Google has a monopoly on a majority of the world’s search engine market, owning 90% while their closest competitor, Bing, owns 2%. Google has integrated itself into our lives and even into the dictionary. To “Google” something means to search it on the internet.

There are 2 main drawbacks from this lack of competition.

Advertisements

An un-skippable ad. Many of you must be familiar with this frustration.

Google bought YouTube in 2006. In 2007, YouTube launched its first advertisement. Fast forward to 2018, YouTube started showing two advertisements before every video and this trend is likely to continue. With no one competing against Google, Google can basically do whatever it wants and consumers will just have to “deal with it”.

Power

Google has the power to filter the news people read to influence and alter their views and believes.

In 2018. Donald Trump accused Google of “rigging search results for news”. Google released a statement claiming that “search is not used to set a political agenda and they don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.” This may be true or not, but its scary to think the amount of power an international search engine has over the world.

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Google has brought convenience to countless individuals. Information is shared readily and accurately thanks to this tech giant. But with this comes certain costs. Whether the benefits of having a single search engine company claim the monopoly outweigh the costs remains an ongoing debate.

The Costs of Big Data

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Technology is advancing at a rapid pace. Companies now have the technology to track their customers’ actions and sort them to create trends. These trends are utilised to help the companies market products specific to the individual’s needs

This can be beneficial to the company and its customers as companies can achieve better marketing and customers are exposed to products that need more, but at what costs?

Privacy

This is one of the most talked about issues Big Data. The more data companies collect, the less privacy their customers have. One example is how Target managed to find out a teenager’s pregnancy before her father was even aware.

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Target used the big data that it collected from millions of customer’s shopping patterns. These patterns can predict characteristics of Target’s customers like if they are pregnant, when they are due, whether they are having a baby boy or girl.

This can sound really creepy and the lack of privacy might be off-putting to certain individuals.

Hacking

A few weeks ago I received a text from my friend, informing me that my Facebook account was posting (possibly fake) Ray-Ban promotional pictures and tagging my Facebook friends on them.

I panicked and immediately Googled “how to remove hacker from Facebook .” I managed to secure my account and gained control of it from the hacker (hopefully).

Instances of hacking are on the rise. What I experienced was nothing compared to the threat of more malicious hackers. Hacking has become more complex with the growth of technology. Yahoo’s cyber security was breached in 2013 and 2014. The integrity of data from their 3 billion users was compromised. With these information, hackers can potentially customise their attacks to individuals, increasing the success rates of their scams.

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Technological advances that resulted in Big Data collection is paramount in this day and age. Think about what you would do without search engines like Google, or a society without credit and debit cards. These technological achievements are essential to our modern lives now. The question now is, where do we draw the line between usefulness and harmfulness?

Mobile Phone Addiction – Marketing Heaven or Social Irresponsibility

Smartphones are addictive. Just look around you during your commute. Virtually everyone on trains and buses have their necks bent, looking at their phones.

Picture taken from news article

The picture above is a very typical scene aboard the trains of Singapore. A 2017 article by the Straits Times reported that Singaporeans spend an average 3 hours and 12 minutes on their phones daily. This is great news to marketers and many companies are altering their marketing strategies to tap on this trend.

There are many techniques of mobile marketing. Some of the most common ones are:

In-app mobile marketing
This is common in mobile games where the user has to watch an advertisement before being allowed to proceed.

Push notifications
Push notifications are messages displayed on mobile devices by third-party apps that are not running on the phone.

Use of bright colours
Studies have shown that the human eye gravitates towards bright colours. Many well known companies have changed their app designs to be brighter to attract more attention.

QR codes
QR codes aim to bridge the virtual world with reality. Customers scan a QR code with their phones and the code redirects the user to the intended message or advertisement.

The rise in smartphone use looks promising for mobile marketers but one can argue about the ethical concerns of these strategies.

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Mobile apps are typically designed to be addictive, wrestling the control people have over their phone usage. A 2019 article reported that the risk of a fatal car crash was 66 % higher when the driver was using a phone. The article also mentioned that more than 800 crash deaths on United States roads in 2017 could be attributed to drivers texting or using their phones for things other than having phone calls.

Phone addiction in young people has even been reported to cause mental issues like depression. Correlations between suicidal thoughts and extended hours of phone use have also been observed.

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These reports have opened my eyes to the dangers of incredibly successful mobile marketing strategies. In a perfect world, marketers would understand the ethical costs of their actions and adjust their strategies accordingly. We, however, do not live in such a world. In the meantime, I am going to download an app to curb my iPhone addiction, oh the irony.

The Implications of Virality in Digital Marketing

What makes a video viral and another not? It all does seem random doesn’t it? This post will talk about the aspects of virality and the potential repercussions of a viral marketing video.

According to Kevin Allocca, there are three ingredients for virality namely tastemakers, communities of participation and unexpectedness.

1. Tastemakers

The chart below taken from a Ted Talk by Kevin Allocca shows the views per day for the double rainbow video.

It shows that the double rainbow video did not go viral until Jimmy Kimmel, a ‘tastemaker’ tweeted about it and shared it to all his followers who in turn shared them to their peers. This chain effect resulted in the video gaining millions of views in a few days.

2. Communities of participation

Friday Music Video

I am sure that virtually everyone knows this song. After the “Friday” music video was shared by tastemakers such as Michael J. Nelson and Tosh.0, the video took off, garnering 1.2 million views in 2 days. Numerous parodies of Friday started to be created by people and within days there was a parody for every other day of the week. This promoted the original video’s shareability with other people, increasing the hits it received.

3. Unexpectedness

A protest against the ticket he got for not cycling in the bike lane
Fast forward to 1.15 to skip the intro

This video has, to the date of this post, 22 million hits on YouTube. By using an unique and unexpected way of protest, Casey Neistat managed to make his video viral. According to smarp, one of the main reasons people want to share content is to bring enlightening and entertaining content to others.

Is there such a thing as “too viral” though? Some may argue that a marketing video that becomes shared too much might lose the video’s original intended meaning. In this information age where everyone has an opinion about something, marketing videos that are too viral might backfire and cause public relations issues and what not.

Hyundai advertisement

An example would be Hyundai’s advertisement depicting their cars having fewer emissions compared to other cars. Hyundai used suicide as the subject of the advertisement in the hopes of making it unique and unexpected. Suicide, however, is a sensitive subject and should not be used in marketing videos. This advertisement was pulled shortly after it was released but imagine the amount of backlash Hyundai would receive if it became viral.

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In summary, virality is important to companies. Companies want to be seen and heard among the clutter and may try many different ways to achieve this. In doing so, however, companies should be mindful about the content they put out. In this information age, everyone can see their marketing videos. All it takes is one badly interpreted advertisement to spark the start of a public relations nightmare.

The “Freemium” Business Model and its Ethical Challenges

The word “freemium” is a combination of the words “free” and “premium.” The freemium business model allows users to use an app for free with the option to purchase premium add-on products in the app. In the case of mobile phone games, the “freemium” model, however, can raise ethical issues about its use and success.

Pokemon Go is an example of a mobile game with the freemium business model. Pokemon Go is free to download and play with users having the option to make purchases for premium items in the game. According to the Guiness World Records, Pokemon Go generated the highest amount of revenue by a mobile game in its first month. Due to it being free to download, Pokemon Go is also the most downloaded mobile game in its first month with 130 million downloads. These records showcase the success of the freemium business model for Pokemon Go. These successes however, come with some ethical concerns stemming from the nature of the model.

Freemium games typically set up a virtual currency for micro-transactions instead of actual money. A virtual currency like PokeCoins in the example of Pokemon Go creates a psychological barrier between the in app purchases and real currency spent. The exchange rates of real currency to in game currency are usually convoluted and prices of in app items are often priced at values that inhibit quick calculation.

In Pokemon Go, $6.98 buys 550 PokeCoins and the price of an incense is 80 PokeCoins This makes it confusing to Pokemon Go’s players how much an incense is in real currency.

A report by Lauren Keating published on Tech Times found that only 1.9% of mobile gamers make in-app purchases. The report also states that the top 10% of the 1.9% of paying gamers account for 48% of revenue from mobile games. These high paying customers are known as whales and are basically financing the freemium mobile gaming industry. Some would argue this is a major issue because these whales almost seem like gambling addicts who keep coming back to lose their money under the encouragement of the mobile gaming companies.

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A report from PC Mag talks about how Gondola is able to utilise dynamic pricing in mobile games. Gondola is an app analytics company that claims to be able to track various variables about a mobile game’s players; how long they have been playing the game for, what model of phone they are using, how many in-app purchases they have made and so on. They provide these information to mobile game companies which in turn may tailor the prices of in-app products to individual customers based on their profiles and behaviours. An example of this would be increasing the price of PokeCoins if the data shows that an individual spent a lot of money in the last few weeks. This practice can raise ethical debates on its use as consumers of mobile games with a freemium business model are vulnerable to the tactics the businesses employ.

Some may argue that this model is the best way to attract consumers as people are generally put off by having to pay to download a mobile game. The freemium model has also proved itself to be very profitable despite the ethical concerns. Given the success and widespread popularity of this model, I suppose that the debate will continue for years to come.

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