Life Span of Data Surveillance Marketing in Wearable Computing
1 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2015
Date Written: March 10, 2015
Digital marketers have been open about possessing the capacity to predict the consumption pattern of a pregnant woman, place the targeted ads about a product at the right moment during her pregnancy, and deliver discount coupons according to her preferences and stages of pregnancy. It is thus easy to imagine how the life span of one’s digital data starts even prior to the birth, and is linked to her consumption pattern, and stored, processed and analyzed according to commercial demands and priorities.
We analyze policy challenges facing the cornucopia of personalized digital data marketing brought by wearable technologies. We ask the following questions: How should the life span of personalized data be regulated given the increasing presence of wearable technologies? More specifically, what are the salient policy concerns when it comes to wearable media? What are the types of regulation likely to succeed and to fail?
Personalized Marketing and U.S. Policy Landscape: By wearable media, we mean networked devices with built-in computing capabilities that can be worn or attached to a human body, such as a smartwatch, smartphone, Google Glass, or Apple Watch. What is striking about wearable media is the depth of interlinked data networks through which these tools could provide an unprecedented scale of seamless personal data integration. We argue that the institutional data practices typical of wearable media will pose policy challenges and herald yet another dramatic shift to personalized data marketing. We also point out the characteristics of existing synergetic data practices that will shape the development of wearable devices that utilize different life stages of personalized data.
There is a growing disjuncture between (1) the institutional-commercial incentive of wearable technology conducive to the intensification of data marketing; and (2) the regulatory inaction safeguarding the pressing issues related to data collection and appropriation. In the U.S. regulatory context, digital marketing industry has thrived on a non-interventionist approach since the mid-1990s, when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) established industrial self-regulation for e-commerce in 1996. Various studies (e.g., Kang, 1998; Lessig, 1999) suggest the ineffectiveness of self-regulation in the online sector. There has been ample evidence that from the early years digital marketers in the U.S. did not conform to the standards of voluntary compliance of consumer protection (FTC, 1998).
We argue that it is possible to narrow the disjuncture through the reconstruction of the multi-layered codes ingrained in (existing and future) wearable technologies that are currently outpacing policy innovations. The overall premise that we are proposing is that data marketing surveillance protocols can be re-coded (Sandvig, 2007; Wu, 2011) with a clear government oversight and authority in designing interconnections among different life spans of data surveillance as they develop over time. In the European context, ‘the right to be forgotten’ introduced public debates on how the life cycle of personal data can and should be regulated. For instance, we can learn lessons from the EU experiment and their mistakes in defining the life span of one’s digital data, not as data holders’ rights, but as the rights of persons whose digital identities are at stake.
Digital Marketing in Future Wearable Computing; In sum, the wearable media have great capabilities to change our life experiences by constructing or dissecting personal data for commercial purposes, as we need to delineate the corresponding policy responses. We conclude by highlighting the key areas of policy concern and future solutions, with the discussion on the future of institutionalized practices related to personal data retention, collection, and appropriation. Overall, we argue for (1) the clearer policy oversight and (2) the need for policy principles on how the life span of personalized data is constructed in digital marketing ecosystem.
Keywords: Wearable Computing, Privacy, Google Glass, Policy
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