Business Intelligence - Ever Wonder if You are Being Targeted?

The Times digest reported, on February 21, 2012, the incursion of business intelligence tools into the hot field of politics in the USA.  It seems that a new day is dawning in American politics as candidates not only borrow from President Obama's 2008 foray into Social Networking tools, but from the cadre of business research tools once the exclusive domain of large businesses.  Consider for example, that Republican Mitt Romney has two distinct advertisements running in different geographical locales solely based on the known profile of the potential viewers.  According to the New York Times, the ads were created for specific audiences based on where they lived, the website they visited, and their voting records.  Each set of potential voters saw a different side of the candidate.

Political candidates are learning to borrow the best tools from corporations and deploying them in new ways in a bid to win political offices.  This technique is borrowing from business intelligence practices, marketing intelligence, and simple common sense.  The Internet and its vast databanks of consumer information have held treasure troves of information for the last few decades.  It was only going to be a  matter of time before the various groups found  new ways to mine this data for their own needs. 

Are we blurring the lines between ethical data use and invasion of privacy?   Opinions will differ on this, as varying groups attach different levels of importance to the tasks at hand.  Electioneering is a critical and important business to politicians and their entourage, but the average citizen may hold a far less liberal view about the use of his personal or demographic information.

What is important about this shift towards micro targeting for political campaigning is that it is a harbinger of things to come.  In other words, for the conservative folks it will get worse.  There are in fact, many more evidence of the use of business intelligence tools for non-business purposes, which have morphed into consumer marketing pylons.  The television industry has been reporting on our TV habits for years.

This practice has become the cornerstone on which an entire industry has been built.  Picture what the loss of this data would mean for these industries and the people they employ?  A company will spend millions of dollars to protect its proprietary information in its vast database, but other online giants that offer a ‘free’ service to consumers online, may not be so rigid when it comes to protecting the personal information of its members, except where legislation dictates.

The important principle in all of this though, is that where as other industries and groups are borrowing the tools of enterprise performance management to satisfy their important non-business needs, there has to be a clear line of demarcation depicting what is allowable and what is not.  Anything else will put every Internet user at risk to an ever-growing list of people who will want to “borrow” their information for profit, power, and fame.  Who knows where this will end?