I spend quite a bit of time tracking issues related to consumer privacy, so I was very happy to see yesterday's announcement that Safecount has been relaunched by Kantar, WPP's research arm, as a consumer-controlled research platform. I think that it is a great idea whose time has come. Having been involved in the initial launching of Safecount, which was the brainchild of Dynamic Logic founder Nick Nyhan and was focused on developing policies and programs to improve the transparency of cookie usage for consumers, I take particular interest in seeing the folks at WPP turning what started as some great ideas into an important and meaningful new service for consumers and for the entire media community.
As I understand it, Safecount has created a Web site and underlying technology that permits consumers to view cookie-based information captured by Safecount-participating consumer research companies. Thus, no more mystery for consumers who have chosen to participate in research programs related to either their browsing habits or their interactions with online ads. Consumers are constantly being bombarded with requests to participate in research panels. With all of the recent noise around some marketing companies abusing online surveys for lead generation, consumers are particularly wary these days about participating in any kind of online questionnaires. This platform has the potential to link the efforts of many different research companies and panels. Thus, not only does it provide a benefit for consumers, it has the potential to significantly improve efforts to measure campaign effectiveness and reduce the cost of constantly recruiting new panels for each and every ad campaign.
Okay, so it sounds like an interesting idea, but will it work? Will companies use and promote it? Will consumers even care? I'm hopeful and optimistic on all counts.
First, I think that the initial launch of Safecount was probably a bit ahead of its time (which, of course, is much better than being too late). There is a lot more maturity in the marketplace today and the initial effort was only conceptual. This one sounds like it has some real technology behind it.
Second, it sounds like there is a lot of support for this initiative among the privacy community and regulators. That is important. Finally, it sounds like there is considerable support within the media and advertising industry for Safecount, and folks are ready to use it.
Programs like these rely on momentum. If Safecount makes consumers more comfortable with cookies used for research, then it is likely more of them will participate in online research. If more consumers participate in online research, the insights and information that will be captured will improve - and more companies will be comfortable using it. More momentum will be generated, and that will be good for all of us.
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