Does your mother know?

When you were a teenager, you probably didn't want your mother to know everything. 

As a parent, when the kids are small, you have constantly to supervise them and tell them what to do. Gradually, you need to hand over more and more responsibility to them. This is also why you don't need so much information about there whereabouts as when they are younger. When they move from home, they need to take full responsibility of themselves and it's now very hard to give advice of how they should live there lives.

Enter today's world with more and more personal IT. It's a fine balance to know enough about your customers or to be creepy

An example is if you search for a new car in Google, then near all ads for a long time period shows cars, regardless if you bought one, decided not to buy or is still in the evaluation process. They know too much to irritate you and not enough to avoid to irritate you. 

If you collect a lot of data about your customers, the question is what should you use it for? Would the use of customer data make your customer upset in the same way as reading a teenagers private written on paper diary would upset her? Will the captured data benefit the customer, the company or both? 

When you sell a new car to a customer and you find your that there is a flaw that needs to be repaired, then the customer would benefit of you can communicate with him about this. If you know his driving patterns, then you may be able to suggest a time for an appointment. The question is how keen your customer is to be traced by you from the GPS in the car. If it's stolen, then it would be good to find the vehicle as soon as possible. But if it's without benefits for the customer, then it's very near to be creepy.

Giving advise is also a delicate matter and knowing how to behave. Does the recipient want to have a good advice or will you be seen as a pain in the ass for interfering in things that is not your business? There is a huge difference if you tell your grown up children what kind of curtains they would have in there first new home or giving your true opinion about them. Maybe it's time to adapt a variant of Laws of Robotics for how computers should interact with us and information about us.

So, in order to avoid problems, these three guidelines may be useful.

  • Don't collect information about your customer if it's not in the customer interest to share this information to you.
  • If you don't benefit from the collection of information, then assure that you couldn't use it for any purpose.
  • Don't collect information about your customer unless the customer and/or you have a clear benefit from this.

Then we have the business models where the user is the product where it's very hard to avoid breaking those principles above.