Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Controlling consumers; eyeballs or wrists

It has been understood for a long time that the eyeball is the pathway to control an individual. The trick is that in the past the war for the consumer eyeballs have been played out quite openly, in adverts on the TV. Adverts have always relied on both subliminal and supraliminal stimuli. More recent behaviours have taken the war to control consumers both mobile and underground, out of the scrutiny of regulators or indeed often the consumers themselves. Signs have been surfacing, the challenge is for us to identify and  interprete these signs, and react before it is too late.
(cf gently bringing a live frog to the boil, first it goes to sleep in the nice warm water!)

George Orwell made part of the leap in 1948 when he realised that controlling the populace was likely to be achieved through taking control of the media for messaging and the television set in the home for monitoring. However he did not have the benefit of hindsight, nor did he predict the amazing advances that mobile technology would bring.  How could we expect him to, when we are in the here and now and apparently are not spotting the emerging issues.  George in his book 1984 represented states which were reducing the agency of their citizens.  Some people might relate this to human rights, but sadly we have no human rights when it comes to Cyber Agency, (which is whole separate Blog topic). I want to keep it simple, I believe I should be able to control my destiny, and control devices and information related to my journey towards this destiny. There are folks out there who want to wrest that control from me, and worse they are making rapid progress, especially in the Wild West of Cyber Space.

Some of the signs:

Carrier IQ: US Phone Carriers inserted spyware on US Mobile phones
Mobile Spyware Services are being made publicly available that allows anyone to do it!
Samsung Smart TV Terms and Conditions
(If you have a Samsung Smart TV you should seriously read the ToS)

Despite much searching I cannot find them on the internet, so here are a few interesting pages: This page gives the right to Block Access to Samsung Smart TV for any reason.

As an aside, just after powering up and connecting "my" Samsung Smart TV to the internet, Samsung took control of "their"? device and started deleting applications from it and replacing applications with others. I was powerless to stop them.

If you own a Samsung Smart TV I hope you didn't think you would be in control of it!

If this is not bad enough, later parts of the ToS define, what Samsung believe to be, non-personal data, anonymous data, including your IP address, and your search terms!? 

An IP address can easily be used to identify a household and from there it is not difficult to identify occupants.
In later parts of the ToS, Samsung give themselves the rights to ship your data anywhere in the world they want to, and basically to whom they want to. 

During the sign in process Samsung also appear to gain access to and control of your FaceBook identity, if you choose to use the Facebook App.

Then on this page the European regulatory discussions about citizens managing their right to be forgotten is well and truly squashed.

The latest Samsung Smart TV comes with a built in camera, any body spot a similarity with George Orwells world?

The battle is now officially joined, especially as Samsung appear to have realised what George did not, the future is Mobile! Therein lies the key to gaining control of consumers. I believe they have realised that the trick to controlling consumers is not just to be in front of their eyeballs but from where you are doing it, the corner of their room, their laptop, or to be with them in their pockets. We can extrapolate that the next key step will be a piece of real estate more valuable than eyeballs, pockets or diamonds, their wrist. Watch as the power problems are resolved and a small wrist mounted computer becomes a reality. The winners will be the ones that own the device on the wrist.

I predict their will be two camps, with a naive few in the centre of the battle stating that it all doesn't matter and all information should be free. The low ground will be quickly taken by those intending to grasp all forms of Cyber Agency from their Customers and/or Citizens. They will prosper for a while, and are prospering in these early Cyber years. Until a more internet savvy generation emerges to state their agency expectations more clearly, we can expect the current Internet sheep to head down for free food into the warm and green pastures. The second camp can only really emerge when a demand for their services comes clear, those that take the high ground will build services that allow the consumer/user to regain cyber agency. (This does not mean that the providers need to give up control of their assets/services.)

Posit: This may sound like a scary world for providers, who expect to make money from their Customers, until they realise that by actually giving their Customers more control there is more chance for Profit if their Customers feel that their interests are also at the heart of any transaction.

Having your assets and services out of control is clearly a bad idea... the answer in 2 dimensions (where the Asset or Service is conflated with the Consumer) is obvious Gain Control as Close to the Consumer as Possible,
Once the parties can get to the high ground they will gain a more complete perspective, empowering clients while maintaining control of an organisations assets/services becomes a more beneficial play.  Many organisations are assuming that in order to control their assets and services they have to gain control of the Consumer. The value of empowering the Consumer will not occur to these organisations.
Those that do will also note that a new set of Trust Services will need to be implemented.

These might also start to become known as Agency Services, and they will be Agents operating in the interests  of the Consumer. (Hopefully following Asimov's 3 Laws of Robotics)

So let's watch as the race to control customers shifts from the corner of the room, to the laptop, to the pocket, to the wrist, then when this achieved watch as organisations struggle to put the consumer back in control, while maintaining control of their assets and services. Those that head straight for mutual control, close to the individual consumer have the highest chance of long term success.

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