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The Hotel California problem of personal data

You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

-The Eagles, Hotel California

Consumers are increasingly uncomfortable with how much of their personal data is being collected by companies. But, personal data collection is not the fundamental issue. After all, personal data can be used for all sort of reasons that the customer appreciates – better products; more relevant communications; customised offers; new services; and much more.

Who among us hasn’t given the grocery store our phone number to get a discount on eggs or milk?

The broader consumer concern with personal data collection is the Hotel California problem. You can stop using a product or service; you can break up with a brand; you can even request that they delete your account…but your data will stay in their system forever.

This lack of control pushes consumers to take increasingly drastic measures to manage their relationships with companies. From entering fake email addresses, to ad blocking extensions, to private browsing, consumers are taking more active measures to counteract what they perceive as overt surveillance.

But contrary to the song lyrics, we are NOT just prisoners here, of our own device. We can offer meaningful, contextual consent opportunities for people to share their data with us. We can manage personal data in line, reducing the amount and the granularity of the data we share. And in the process, we can build even deeper customer and partner loyalty and relationships.

It’s time to check out of the Hotel California.

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