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"Hunted by the authorities; we work in secret. You will never find us, but victim or perpetrator; if your numbers up... we'll find you." - Harold Finch, Person of Interest, CBS, 2011

There are millions of people around the globe who are deathly afraid that "Big Brother" -- super-government capable of tracking our every move and controlling our thoughts and opinions - is slyly coming to the forefront.

Others - including the governments - are concerned that our privacy is being horribly violated.

At the same time, most of these people want to have assistance to shop online or find a store with just the product they want at the cheapest possible cost, ensure their mobile calls and text messages go through clearly, flawlessly.

Yes, you want privacy; but you also want instant service, support, help...preferably before you know you need it.

And you want it for free.

It's tough to have it both ways.

Actually, real folks - the estimated 240M Internet users and 4B mobile device users - aren't concerned about maintaining their privacy but are concerned that their private information won't be shared...too much.

If people were really worried about their information the 80+M Facebook and millions of other using sites - YouTube, Del.icio.us, Bebo, Technorati, Twitter, WordPress, etc. - wouldn't be so willing to post so much of their personal information.

Just a Little Info -- Look at your Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, whatever posted pages and individually they appear pretty innocent. Not a ton of information on any specific page, but it doesn't take a lot of work by someone half-way ambitious to scrape all of the data together and get a very accurate picture of you, your life, your habits. Source - Ponemon Institute

Monitoring and collection began long before social media became the drug of choice for folks.

Cameras were fired up long ago to help law enforcement agencies pinpoint, track "people of interest." ATM machines captured images and information on transactions. Your debit, credit cards document your purchases, the locations, your habits.

As if these involuntary personal information captures weren't enough, people pony up breathtakingly intimate and comprehensive information they want to share with others. These open diaries are posted for the world to read so folks can hook up with others who share similar interests or to prove something!

Word Gets Around - Gen Y and boomers seemingly had a pretty small sphere of "friends" in the very early days of the Web. But today, they and the millennials (recently renamed Generation C) have friends that quickly spread around the globe as you connect to six people, they connect to six, they connect.... Source - IDC

Of course, in addition to attracting friends, the profile pages have also become reading sources for advertisers and government agencies.

But rather than produce the disaster that Orwell saw, we have one that is closer to Huxley's Brave New World and Monty Python.

Face it, privacy is a thing of the long distant past. We took hold of our technology and started using it to find, share just about anything, everything to become an important person of interest.

We have so much technology we're going wild with it doing, showing, sharing stuff under an almost hedonistic umbrella.

We want our guidance, assistance, information quickly, effortlessly; so we seek it from almost every source that's available.

Easy Lookin' - People no longer rely solely on friends/family for product/service advice. The Web and smartphones deliver product information, reviews, best prices, comments on service/support, availability and almost anything you'd be interested in learning before you made the purchasing decision. And increasingly, people use all the resources before they visit a store online or in person. Source - BIGresearch

It's a key reason that Strategy Analytics estimates that more than 72 percent of the 1+B worldwide broadband users are also social media users.

Almost anything you sign up for today requires your personal information and it's logged by firms in the cloud.

The goal isn't to track your movements but to determine how to serve you better; and as long as that's what is done and the information is properly safeguarded, the system works.

For the most part, it works according to plan.

People have found that companies and brands are generally moving cautiously to deliver because the speed with which folks can voice their complaints are swift and vicious.

Consumers report that social networks and blogs are the least influential; but on the upside - for manufacturers - they are strongly influenced by online store/producer feedback and ratings (46 percent) and 35 percent by the source's website.

Because of this, companies and brands are learning as they go as to what works, what doesn't when it comes to what customers want/need.

They undoubtedly fumble more than they should but think you can do any better figuring out what goes on inside seven billion potential minds?

Direct Company, Brand Contact - Depending upon the product or service, consumers get a good degree of satisfaction out of connecting on a more 1:1 basis with the companies and brands they purchase, recommend, use. Positive, friendly, non-aggressive company contact not only helps the consumer bond with the company/brand but also encourages him/her to recommend them as well. Source - Cone

Most firms are looking for better ways to safely (the operative word) collect valuable customer data so they can deliver appropriate product information and news to assist the consumer when he/she needs it.

That isn't an easy task but...they're working on it.

And for the most part, consumers are okay with the data collection.

KPMG found that 52 percent of those surveyed were willing to let usage patterns and personal information be tracked and collected as long as it benefited them.

Increasingly, people are more willing, more comfortable shopping online.

KPMG reported that most folks shop online every day and that 42 percent of young adults spend more than an hour a day at it.

About the only thing they don't shop digitally for are food and groceries; luxury goods; and furniture.

This past year, consumers got a lot more comfortable and aggressive in using their mobile devices to locate stores, research products, get on-line coupons and scan barcodes for product information.

While the shift captured the imagination of the consumer, it also changed the business models for manufacturers/retailers and focused an additional degree of attention on the information that was captured, exchanged, protected.

Mobile Apps - With more than one million apps to choose from for your smartphone, it's understandable that people have a special connection to their mobile device and are more guarded about their privacy/security. Source - TRUSTe

Users, privacy groups and legislators momentarily screamed with outrage when someone suddenly told them that their mobile information was being quietly and continuously captured by Carrier IQ. Government officials quickly demanded full and complete disclosure from Carrier IQ, device manufacturers, carriers.

Once the smoke cleared, it wasn't as bad as the headlines proclaimed--especially if you wanted your mobile service to be free of dropped calls, messages or for device manufacturers to analyze how the devices are performing, how to increase power management and deliver better user satisfaction.

True, creating a database-like file is a far cry from an immediate location of your current position to give you assistance, information, guidance, recommendations.

The biggest problem was that it wasn't secure; but then, probably no less secure than on your computer where you have all of your family photos, trips, receipts, bills, passwords and other important information.

Before the Carrier IQ uproar, iPhone users took a certain degree of satisfaction in their MobileMe app that would help them find their missing iPhone (or phone user) when it went missing.

No one bothered to consider that this very handy app didn't work simply by magic.

In addition, no one brought up the fact that without some of that tracking information it would be pretty difficult for marketers, retailers to give you information about products and services as you walked down the street or to send you coupons when you looking for a specific product, service.

No big deal until Google tapped into the information and then "Holy *^%$#!"

Let Me Know - Increasingly, consumers like to be notified on their computers and/or mobile devices of special events, special offers, special thank yous. As long as the messages aren't a continuing stream of meaningless offers/messages, it's nice to see the manufacturer/retailer recognizes/appreciates you. Source - 1020 Placecast

Mobile tracking isn't as prevalent as computer web tracking, but people are more wary because the phone is extremely personal and tied to them almost all of the time.

Firms are sorta, kinda following the recommendations of Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, "If you can't protect it, don't collect it."

The biggest shift for these organizations is to beef-up and constantly monitor their security processes, procedures.

Timing is Crucial - In the marketing/selling of products/services there are no magic bullets, no one communications tool that is precisely right for every occasion, every person. In addition, there are different phases of reaching, influencing the consumer. All of the tools have to work in their proper time. Source - McKinsey

In the brave new world of authenticity, transparency and openness; manufacturers and retailers have to spend more and work harder to provide customers the information when they need it and at the same time, build and protect the bond of trust.

With so many opportunities for bad guys/gals that's never an easy task.

As in Person of Interest, it's tough for people to know at any given time if they're in one of the two categories: relevant or irrelevant.

It would be nice if we knew Harold Finch had hired John Reese by telling him, "They wouldn't act so I decided I would, but I needed a partner; someone with the skills to intervene."

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Author:. G. A. "Andy" Marken President Marken Communications, Inc. Santa Clara, CA Andy has worked in front of and behind the TV camera and radio mike. Unlike most PR people he listens to and understands the consumer’s perspective on the actual use of products. He has written more than 100 articles in the business and trade press. During this time he has also addressed industry issues and technologies not as corporate wishlists but how they can be used by normal people. He has been a marketing an... Go Deeper | Website