Dictionary.com deemed "Privacy" to be the word of 2013. It seems appropriate considering continual media coverage of the National Security Administration's data harvesting efforts, not to mention a heightened recognition among the general public the data we generate and who's collecting it.
What will it mean for marketers in 2014? Ann Mack, JWT's director of trendspotting, along with others at the global ad agency giant have some predictions on privacy we pulled from its report, "100 Things to Watch in 2014."
1. Mobile tracking beacons proliferate.
Retailers and restaurants are tracking shopper movements as mobile tracking technologies like Apple's iBeacon proliferate. "Low-cost transmitters that rely on Bluetooth technology, like Apple's iBeacon, allow retailers to precisely track shoppers' mobile phones and send highly targeted content tied to location and shopping habits," explains JWT. "The beacons have great potential beyond retail: Museum visitors, for instance, could get tours tailored to their meanderings. Major League Baseball has tested iBeacons as a way to guide stadium visitors and send concession offers."
"Logic will only infrequently determine what people will consider creepy and overly invasive versus reasonably acceptable," said Ms. Mack. "Often there is a gut reaction against practices that don't appear to tread heavily on personal privacy -- for instance, tracking shoppers in aggregate rather than as individuals -- while conversely, consumers have so far broadly accepted tech devices and services that carry significant privacy implications."
"People have shown only limited wariness regarding the ways that mobile devices and apps can impinge on privacy, for instance, and thus far greater resistance to offline than online tracking," she continued. "Plan for emotion-driven reactions that may seem inconsistent or altogether illogical."
2. Commerce gets intelligent and ambient.
"As more 'smart,' sensor-connected objects hit the marketplace, brands will seek to offer instant gratification by way of "ambient commerce," says JWT. Sensor-connected objects will enable "ambient commerce," what the agency defines as "anticipating consumer needs and wants, and providing goods and services automatically." As an example JWT cites John Sheldon, eBay Enterprise Marketing Solutions head of strategy: "using the Nike+ app to ensure that a new pair of running shoes arrives whenever the customer reaches 300 miles of usage."
3. Google Glass etiquette emerges.
Accompanying the hype around Google Glass this year was an undercurrent of privacy concerns. "Since Google Glass wearers can easily photograph or record what they're seeing, quietly access information from the web or get distracted by a stream of digital information, good manners will dictate removing them in various intimate, social or business contexts," notes the JWT report.
4. Hackers target the household.
Do we need virus protection and hacking safeguards for our cars and kitchen appliances? JWT thinks we will soon. "As more objects evolve into tech-infused smart devices with interactive functionality, they'll become newly vulnerable to hackers. Cars, for instance, could become moving targets, creating havoc," states the agency list. "The home is the most at-risk sphere, as home security systems and smart TVs are relatively easy to compromise. As manufacturers work to bolster security, expect more consumer education on this topic."
5. Kids get added privacy protections.
Data privacy wonks are well aware of regulatory and legislative efforts to protect privacy, particularly for kids. But JWT suggests marketers need to have such issues on their radar, too: "A new California law requires websites to provide a way for teens in the state to remove any photos, videos, recordings and comments they have posted. A Do Not Track Kids Act introduced in the U.S. Congress in 2013 includes provisions for an 'eraser button' that would let kids or their parents delete public-facing online information. In Europe, EU legislators are pushing for the 'right to be forgotten' for people of all ages."
"Now that the ability to leverage data is becoming a key competitive advantage, marketers are looking to learn as much as they can about consumers, who in turn are growing more aware of and anxious about their eroding anonymity," said Ms. Mack. "Lawmakers are considering where to draw the lines. Navigating this landscape will require extreme sensitivity, a close reading of customer attitudes, adherence to emerging best practices and a very finely calibrated use of the new services at companies' disposal."
6. Consumers become aware of their 'metadata.'
Another word that gained prominence in common parlance this year was "metadata." JWT describes metadata as "our digital footprints: when, where and to whom we make calls or send emails, for instance, as opposed to the content of those calls or emails." The report predicts, "Consumers will become more aware of how much their metadata can reveal."
7. Privacy becomes a key focus of product design.
"Privacy by Design" is another term often used in the privacy community that marketers may want to learn. JWT notes that the concept refers to "a framework developed by Ann Cavoukian, Ontario's commissioner of information and privacy. Seven key principles include embedding privacy into the design of IT systems and business practices, and taking a positive-sum rather than a zero-sum approach that avoids 'unnecessary tradeoffs.'"
8. Digital privacy services go mainstream.
"Some services ensure more private communications, like the encrypted-messaging platforms Cryptocat and PixelKnot or the instant-erase apps Wickr and Frankly," states JWT, noting examples of the emerging sector providing digital privacy protection services. "Personal.com creates data lockers that let users control how much of their information is accessible to companies. The Respect Network is a personal cloud network that allows people to 'safely store and share personal data with other people and businesses.' The open-source Locker Project enables developers to integrate personal data lockers into their applications."
9. Vending machines will recognize faces.
Facial-recognizing vending machines exist today, and JWT suggests they're not going away. "These capabilities enable the machines to accept credit card or mobile payments and interact with consumers in various ways. Beyond simple marketing messages, they open the door to game-based promotion, sampling, social media sharing, facial recognition and other unique features."
10. Techno paranoia will grow in 2014.
Along with all the fascination around new technologies comes increased worry about privacy invasion. JWT's list recognizes this as a distinct trend, too, implying marketers should expect some people to opt-out from most data collection when given the opportunity: "As more sci-fi visions of the future start coming to fruition -- self-driving cars, billboards that recognize us, remotely controlled homes and so on -- a growing number of people will become wary of technology. While not full-blown Luddites, this cohort will develop a paranoia around tech and opt out wherever practical, thanks to fears of worst-case scenarios: Big Brother-style invasion of privacy, hackers wreaking havoc, etc."
Read JWT's full report in .pdf form here.