You are lucky indeed if you don't know what CRM stands
for. It's fast becoming the source of the biggest damned
nuisance in the developed world, and I want you to stamp it
out wherever it breaks out. Inhumanely kill and burn the
perpetrators if you must.
CRM stands for "Customer Relationship
Management". It now seems to encapsulate everything from
screen pop-ups reminding call centre droids to say "Have
a Nice Day" to ensuring that you only get spam that fits
your carefully researched and honed profile. Some hope!
And in between is growing a deeply, deeply insidious
trade in information about users habits and interests that
ought to have been more intelligently covered by the various
data protections acts – but given that the UK’s data
protection legislation was conceived before the internet, and
revised imperfectly, what we have now is the equivalent of the
sort of legislation that covers a vehicle MOT. In others
words, far too much tedious detail that means that any
determined copper will be able to nail any motorist if they
really, really want to.
However… this law takes no account of what Johnny
Foreigner is up to when he driving around on our shores in his
10 year old Trabant, that creates its own personal hole in the
Ozone layer and has brakes that would tax the skills of the
Captain of the QE2.
You try and extract details of your personal files from
an outfit like Experian (www.experien.com).
In this age of electronic communication, they make it as
difficult as imaginable to get your own record:-
By Post - You should apply enclosing the statutory £2 fee
in the form of a cheque (payable to Experian Ltd.) or postal
order and we will be happy to send it to you. Please ensure
that you quote your full forename and surname as well as your
date of birth and all addresses at which you have resided
during the past six years.
Not exactly a secure
method, is it..? So why not make this available via a web
order form and credit card purchase, like every other retailer
on the web. Moreover, the cunning buggers could then trap
details of a CC account that they might not already have noted
on your file. I for one would certainly be arsed to fill out
the web form and get my own file this way, but who uses snail
mail in this enlightened age..? Why does Experian put barriers
in the ways of consumers checking their own records..? Is it
because that many of them are wrong (even the Home Office
admits that some 30% of criminal records are wrong) ..? If
Experian is advised of an inaccuracy, is it then duty bound to
send corrections to all users of its services to correct false
information..? After all, it keeps a track of who has accessed
which records. But I guess that would be embarrassing and
costly. This topic is, strangely, not discussed in their FAQ.
Personal (electronic) privacy has been an issue mostly
as the result of the evil of spam (serially propagated
automated mailing) which quickly latched onto the fact that
email was, essentially free. So the laws of nature applied,
and the medium has become abused to an alarming degree – and
given the territorial diversity of the internet, no
legislation has been effective in nailing the menace.
Microsoft has regularly tested the boundaries of what
their punters will wear when it comes to attempts to
compromise personal data integrity. Quite apart from the
famously flawed security features in the software that allow
hackers into just about any Microsoft operating system to
“help themselves”, Microsoft operates various technique to
try and snag the data from passing surfers – as well as trap
the data from product registrations.
In the effort to appear to be concerned about consumer
privacy, most people like Microsoft pay lip service to the
notion and offer the chance to “opt out” , but the general
drift of their latest well-spin initiative – P3P (Platform
for Privacy Preferences) - is that nothing much is changing.
The headline feature of IE6 is apparently a variation on the
theme of cookie warnings. But let’s be honest, lots of users
find browser cookie-based authentication a real boon when the
alternative is the inestimable fag of remembering a zillion
personal logins and passwords.
The next wave of Microsoft software (XP series) is
designed with a much more invasive registration process than
ever before; some paranoid music rights owners are even asking
for hard disk manufacturers to devise a data stamping
technique to track users over the matter of MP3 file
exchanges. The world is going barmy. Stop it!
But why does CRM exist..?
It exists firstly because it can, and secondly because
someone is willing to pay someone else, just to learn about
YOU. Now, call me old fashioned, but if anyone is to make
money out of knowing about me and my preferences, than that
someone should be ME. Not Microsoft; not consumer credit
agencies like Experian; not Rupert Murdoch, not Alan Sugar,
not Vodafone, Orange, Cellnet etc., and most definitely not
Her Majesty’s Government or any one of a zillion other
agencies that collect data ands then sell it to others for all
manner of marketing purposes.
Thanks to the web, this is not entirely wishful
thinking, so watch this space.