What Can We Learn About Event Attendee Privacy from the NSA and Facebook

eye in spyglassEvery person has expectations as to how their activities are tracked and how the government and companies use data that is collected. Some people have absolute beliefs that no data should ever be collected. Others are okay with it depending on the circumstances. While yet others are fine sharing almost any of their information if it delivers more targeted ads or better Google searches.

You just can’t please all the people all of the time.

By being more transparent you can avoid much of the public’s wrath and showing up on the front page of the news.

Event organizers have always collected data on their attendees. Think about your registration process. Why is it we collect more than just an attendee’s name and payment? We do this to know more about our attendees so we can create a better experience. If we know their interests, job titles and years of experience, we can create programming that would be relevant to them.

We understand what types of people our events attract. We can then go out and find more people just like them and market our event to these like people.

When we know things like what products and services they want or need, what their budgets are and what their level of influence over purchasing decisions are, we can use that information to get sponsors and exhibitors to invest in our events.

All of that data collection is very obvious to the attendee during the registration process. They volunteered the information. They didn't have to share information if they didn't want to.

But now we are using mobile event apps that are data collection machines. We can easily see what topics and speakers are most viewed on the app. We can see with whom our attendees are networking. We can see who clicked on what exhibitor or sponsor profiles. We have data on who clicked on a sponsor’s banner.

The question is, do your attendees know you have access to all this information? Do they know what you are doing with it?

Recently many were shocked to find that our government was collecting all sorts of data. They wanted to know what it was being used for.

As an event organizer, you can address privacy concerns head on by telling your attendees what data is being collected and how you plan to use it. Be proactive and publish this information prior to the event and ask for feedback. If people have concerns or misunderstandings on how you intend to use their data, you can address those concerns and misunderstandings right away.

You could also create an attendee advisory board to work on the policy alongside the event team, or create an ombudsman role, so your attendees know any concerns they have will be heard and addressed.

The long and short of this issue is clear. Data collection doesn’t have to be a problem if your make your process transparent.

Photo Credit: dullhunk via Compfight cc

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