Business Models Don’t Create Business Rights

There’s a lot about which to criticize California, but in one case, early though it is, the State appears to be on the right track.  California passed a consumer privacy law, and businesses everywhere are in an uproar over it.  The bill

requires [businesses] to offer consumers options to opt out of sharing personal information, and it gives Californians the right to prohibit the sale of their personal data.

Business’ objections center on their premise that it

risked far-reaching damage to everything from retailers’ customer-loyalty programs to data gathering by Silicon Valley tech giants.

This is that business model granting rights to business foolishness.  The claimed damage to customer-loyalty programs is especially rich.  If the business earned customers’ loyalty with actual quality goods and services and actual customer service in response to the inevitable problems that arise, the need for loyalty programs would be lessened.  The still-useful loyalty programs would be easier to sell from that demonstrated quality performance.  Beyond that, businesses could make the perks of joining the program more visible, more actually usable—and do better at tailoring them to individual, or small groups of, customers.  Of course, that last would require collecting customer data, but they might be pleasantly surprised by the outcome of a customer-customizable set of personal data to give access to—and by saying “pretty please” instead of demanding broad-ranging data as a condition of doing business.

The tech companies are being disingenuous, too.  They have yet to demonstrate a need for the wide-ranging data they take without permission; they just say “we need it” without discriminating their claimed need from their obvious “we want.”  And they demand it as a condition of doing business, again refusing the simple courtesy of “pretty please” and the tailoring of the data they want as well as legitimately need.

David French, National Retail Federation Senior Vice President of Government Relations worried, with a straight face, about customers and personalized marketing campaigns.

The consumer will actually be the big loser.

Not this customer.  I object to personalized marketing campaigns aimed at me.  These folks don’t know what I’m in the market for; my past buys are no indication of my current or future needs.  Nor do I want my browsing circumscribed by what offers of what I bought yesterday.  I want the full range of what’s available.  I especially don’t need my time wasted with efforts to create a need or a want where none exists.  I won’t be losing anything by not being inundated with personalized “advertising.”

It’s early, but the law looks like a good start.

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