Personal data refers to any information relating to an identified or identifiable person; This means you can identify someone be it through an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person.
We live in a world where most of our activity takes place in the digital environment. From ordering lunch or binge-watching for a weekend to any type of communication: we work, talk, and see people with just a single click.
Once we got used to online services and apps, we also started to have higher standards in terms of usability and to have experiences that are as personalized and relevant to our needs as possible — from a movie and/or video recommendations, language identification, to our shopping history on a site, or recently seen products and offers.
In order to create a good User Experience, User Interaction, flows, services, features, or discounts, companies need to cluster and analyze some data about you.
We definitely do not want to have our data processed, but we do not really think of it in this way. And, of course, we (definitely) dislike the idea of having our activity monitored on a site using video recording applications of the sessions we have, clicks, mouse movements, and any other action that is involved in the activity on a site or in a web or a mobile application. But we want to receive only relevant content.
This is called the paradox of privacy!
How do we accept (or manage) the discrepancy between our intentions and expectations as consumers? how to protect our privacy and keep our expectations vs how we (actually) behave in the online world?
Before jumping to an answer to this question, let’s talk about personalization to add a bit of context.
People are not static — au contraire: we use multiple social networks, communication channels, a lot of different devices (console, laptops, tablets, phones), and our interests change over time or depending on the context.
This means the experience with a product or service is completely different in terms of UX / UI or content for each of us. To these, we can add our interests, the content relevance, and the way we consume everything.
Localization, be it for marketing campaigns, content, or software, is the process of translating your business or digital product into multiple languages and adapt it across cultures.
A single language can be used in multiple parts of the world — such as English, French, or Portuguese, and your product should adapt to the regional and cultural conventions of the customer’s geolocation. Having it internationalized, the entire content, flow, and feel will seem as if it is an app built for specific native speakers, no matter who is using it.
We are keen to accept and use services and products that are closer to our culture, way of living, our native language or idioms, specific colors, symbols, and design elements.
This is not a new topic at all; in the offline environment it has been used for a long time — think of tailors! We give them contact details, they take our measures, we tell them what clothes, materials, and colors we like, where we want to wear them, what makes us feel comfortable (or not) and they offer us a product. These also fall under personal and behavioral data and we offer them in exchange for a personalized product.
However, in the online medium, even though most of us buy and use things only if they are customized for our needs or if they are recommended to us, we are reluctant to accept the data processing when it comes to our profile (e.g., Spotify customizes playlists for you based on what you have listened to before).
So, how does personalization actually work?
There are multiple ways to customize a product, but most of them comprise of different types of data. Let’s declutter them!
At the end of the day, personalization and user experience for web or mobile app (or even a site) require an essential ingredient: Personal data. There is no other way.
And even though, until recently, consumer data was collected without transparency, nowadays there are regulations and public awareness regarding the value and usage of personal data — and this is only the beginning of a data-driven journey for the digital products to be build and for the authorities and organizations to create even stronger regulations and enforce them accordingly.