Advances in technology continue to widen the gap between the world we live in and the life skills individuals need to live comfortably in a digital world, including shopping skills (how to find what we need, learn about new products and get the best price). Acxiom believes we must raise the “Digital IQ” of consumers in many areas, but especially in the area of shopping and buying.
As we embrace a world of big data, sophisticated analytics, and the Internet of Things, we place greater burdens on consumers to make good decisions about their digital lives. Every year the burden grows, creating a greater number of individuals that struggle, or worse ignore, the decisions we ask them to make.
Laws and regulations constantly call for greater transparency and more informed choice, like we saw in the recent FTC report on data brokers discussed in my last blog. But the issue of transparency and informed choice go far beyond data brokers. They apply to all aspects of marketing, and even our digital lives.
Acxiom believes we should attack these challenges from multiple fronts.
For legal compliance:
- Companies should post a privacy notice (which should be as long as necessary) addressing all the required disclosures and explaining the choices that are called for in law or industry best practices. However, we should all understand that this notice is written for lawyers and regulators, not for consumers.
- Companies should provide a short privacy notice written in more consumer friendly language, sometimes referred to as a layered notice, that summarizes the key elements from a company’s full privacy notice addressing things consumers would be not expect or they need to know. A few consumers will read this notice, but even the short notice is likely to often be ignored.
- Finally, companies should also post just-in-time notices at key points of interaction with consumers where data is collected, highlighting the collection, use and sharing practices of the organization that would not be expected by most consumers.
These three types of notices lay some of the ground work for satisfying the traditional privacy principles of transparency and choice, but should not be expected to adequately result in an informed public who makes smart digital choices.
- From a consumer perspective, short notices and just-in-time notices are like using flash cards to teach algebra.
- The myriad of choices offered to a consumer are just too much and they will only get worse as we embrace the Internet of Things.
- We shouldn’t try to teach consumers how to build a watch when they only need to tell the time.
The dictionary defines ‘lQ’ as a score designed to assess intelligence. For this discussion, I will define ‘Digital IQ’ as a person’s intelligence about how to live safely, express preferences, exercise informed choices, and navigate the risks found in the digital age. A new approach to raising the Digital IQ score is needed for most consumers to develop the life skills they need.
This is actually not a new concept in regulatory circles. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is mandated by law to “develop and implement a strategy to improve the financial literacy of consumers and initiatives to educate and empower consumers to make better informed financial decisions.” To learn more about their initiative, read their financial literacy annual report.
Tuesday, the Council of Better Business Bureau and Acxiom announced a Digital IQ initiative that will explore:
- Launching collaborative educational efforts with multiple stakeholders who can reach consumers where they live, work and play.
- Creating tools and information provided directly to the public to help develop these digital life skills.
- Collaboration with a wide range of partners to provide innovative tools and information offline and online, like a web portal on the BBB website and Acxiom’s consumer facing website, as well as elsewhere, where hundreds of common shopping questions can be answered.
- Creating a national conversation about digital life skills throughout our communities in our families, schools, and places of work and worship:
- Helping parents talk to their children about making good shopping decisions in a data rich world.
- Helping schools teach about these decision-making skills.
- Helping public and private employers create a digitally fit workplace.
- Helping places of worship provide a safe setting for people struggling with these life skills.
By working together we can enhance the digital IQ of everyone, supporting the hopes, dreams and life goals of individuals and families. Comfortable, confident consumers make great customers for great brands.
The BBB will be creating a Steering Committee to oversee the research, priorities and educational projects that will be made up of representatives from industry, civil society, academia, technology and education. Entities interested in supporting or being part of the initiative should call Genie Barton at BBB at 703-247-9344 or email [GBarton@council.bbb.org] or call Jennifer Glasgow at Acxiom at 501-252-2316 or email [email@example.com].