The following is a transcript from a phone call between a behavioral targeting salesman and a certain Mr. Faust, CEO of Anything for a Buck Enterprises…
Faust: Hello, and thanks for calling Anything for a Buck. Faust speaking.
BT Salesman: Good morning, Mr. Faust. You don't know me but have I got a deal for you!
Faust: Great! I'm always interested in a good deal. Tell me about it.
BT Salesman: Well, Mr. Faust, I've got this spectacular new technology that will allow you to collect the most intimate details of your customers' online lives.
Faust: Sounds a little creepy. I like it.
BT Salesman: Exactly! You'll know every move they make, every Web site they visit, how long they spend there, what they buy, what they do – everything!
Faust: Sounds downright diabolical. But what's the point?
BT Salesman: You'll be able to increase your online ad performance by up to 50%.
Faust: Well, hold on for a moment. Let me do the math: A 50% lift of my usual point one percent CTR. Hmmm. That brings my performance all the way up to .15%. But even with the added lift I'm still at statistical zero. Sounds like much ado about nothing to me.
BT Salesman: Well, you know the CTR is just the tip of the iceberg. You'll also be able to sell the data you collect!
Faust: Sell the data? To whom?
BT Salesman: To anyone who asks. You could even give it away to the government!
Faust: Won't people who come to my Web site object to being tracked like escaped convicts and having their data sold to the highest bidder or given away to the government?
BT Salesman: Naaah. Not to worry. Most folks won't even know.
Faust: What about those who do?
BT Salesman: We'll solicit their informed consent.
Faust: Informed consent? What idiot would agree to something like that?
BT Salesman: Anyone who wants relevant ads.
Faust: Relevant ads? Who the hell wants any ads?
BT Salesman: Studies conclude that consumers prefer relevant ads to non-relevant ads.
Faust: Studies, eh? So where's the informed consent part?
BT Salesman: We'll provide you with a simple boilerplate privacy statement and consent form.
Faust: Now you're talking. How long is the consent form?
BT Salesman: Well, the standard privacy statement and form is eight pages, but you can add to it if you want.
Faust: Eight pages? Who the hell's gonna read eight pages?
BT Salesman: No one I know. But they don't have to read it to accept it.
Faust: You mean people will consent to something they never read?
BT Salesman: Of course. You think any laws would get passed by Congress if they actually had to read what they sign?
Faust: Good point. But that's hardly informed consent. Seems more like uninformed consent.
BT Salesman: Informed, uninformed. Let's not split hairs, Mr. Faust. Whattaya say?
Faust: I don't know. Sounds a little ethically challenged to me.
BT Salesman: Exactly! I knew you'd appreciate it! Can I write you up?
Faust: Well, much as the idea of spying on everyone who visits my Web site appeals to me, and much as the thought of selling the most intimate details of my customers' lives to the highest bidder…
BT Salesman: And don't forget the government.
Faust: Right. Right. Right. And much as the corruptive union of corporate and state power entices me, I gotta say that I just don't feel right about this one. Just seems way over the top and without any ethical or moral foundation whatsoever – even for me.
BT Salesman: Well, Mr. Faust, I appreciate your candor. Would it be okay if we keep your phone number and email address on file to keep you posted on future product updates?
Faust: I suppose. You need my email address?
BT Salesman: No thanks, Mr. Faust. We've already got it. (Click…bzzzzzzzz.)
About Jeff Einstein and the Brothers Einstein
Jeff Einstein is one-half of the Brothers Einstein, a communications strategy and branding boutique. The Brothers Einstein work with very select rapid-growth clients to help define and execute healthy brand strategies in a toxic media environment.
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