Personalization vs privacy paradox

We are living in the era of the privacy paradox, a term coined to explain our desire for personalized content and natural instinct to protect our personal information.

Author and tech advisor Geoffrey Moore once said: “Without big data analytics, companies are blind and deaf, wandering out onto the web like deer on a freeway.” Meaning the entire digital ecosystem relies on you and your data. And many of us aren’t too preoccupied with giving brands and websites our personal information, especially if we feel the benefits of that personalization. In fact, 63% of Millennials, 58% of Gen Xers, and 46% of Baby Boomers are willing to share personal information with companies if they get personalized offers or discounts, according to Salesforce. In a time where companies are legally able to store information in order to get personal with their audiences, how much is too much in exchange for convenience and comfort?

Amazon’s Personalization Success

Amazon, is an obvious powerhouse. More than 40 percent of everything sold online in the U.S. is sold on Amazon. The company has made impressive personalization progress with its artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive analytics. Amazon bases recommendations on a user’s purchase history, items they’ve looked at, items they’ve rated and liked, and what other buyers of those same items have viewed and purchased. And it works. In 2017, 44% of customers bought from Amazon’s product recommendations.

Amazon has never suffered what one might call a privacy nightmare. At least not yet. And that’s to their credit. But…

Facebook’s Privacy Nightmare

Facebook collects data from our posts, likes, photos, things we type and delete without posting, and things we do while not on Facebook and even when we’re offline. It buys data about us from others. And it can figure out our sexual orientation, political beliefs, relationship status, drug use, and other personality traits – all that even if we didn’t take the personality test that Cambridge Analytica developed. There are 2,500 to 4,000 data brokers in the United States whose business is buying and selling our personal data. A large portion of data brokerage is used for identity verification or fraud prevention. But a lot of it is used for traditional marketing. Historically, Facebook users (and that means almost half the world) haven’t thought too much about the give and take of their information on the platform.

But even a 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg was amazed by what users would share, as he famously typed these words via the Facebook messaging app to one of his friends shortly after launching The Facebook in his dorm room.

MZ: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard
MZ: Just ask.
MZ: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS
[Redacted Friend’s Name]: What? How’d you manage that one?
MZ: People just submitted it.
MZ: I don’t know why.
MZ: They “trust me”

And that was essentially true until quite recently. Now, years of privacy lapses have finally caught up with Facebook and last month its market value fell by over $100 billion in the largest single-day drop in value in Wall Street history. Much of that fall was attributed to fears about how Facebook managed its users data.

Internet users have wisened up. Mostly, they’ve learned that nothing is truly free. See my takeaways below.

Personalization vs privacy paradox data story imageDownload the PDF for desktop and mobile.


  1. Consent: With GDPR taking effect earlier this year, brands are starting to be more conscious of clearing consent with their audience first. Asking current or prospective customers to opt-in for further communication will also lead to a much better, more engaged, relationship with them down the road.
  2. Transparency: Some brands have had success being open and transparent with their audience when it comes to sharing their values, process or pricing models. When companies share how they use your data to enhance your online experience, relating that they are not sharing that data with third-party partners makes it more inviting for consumers.
  3. Trust: When brands provide their audience with helpful, relevant and useful content through every stage of their customer journey, they build longer term relationships and trust. Customer communities are a great way to encourage your customers to share experiences and further build those relationships.

Learn how Bookmark can help you glean insights from your customers to adapt your strategy and build stronger relationships with them.

Consumer Insights & CRM