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The towering market of the future: Anonymity


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November 18, 2005

The towering market of the future: Anonymity

Stephen Baker

We pay for all sorts of things that once were free. Drinking water and TV are two that come to mind. As I was walking to lunch today, I was thinking about the great markets of the future. I came up with anonymity.

Increasingly, companies are making money through their knowledge of us. They're going to great lengths to learn what we buy, where we shop and pray, what ailments we've had, what movies we like. And they're barely scratching the service. The growth of wireless promises to provide our whereabouts and lots of local detail. In the future, I'm betting that companies will offer us all kinds of free services (like Gmail) if we agree to provide them our information, carry their advertisements, and receive their focused pitches. And if we don't feel like participating? If we want to be anonymous? That will be a luxury, like bottled water, and I'm betting we'll pay dearly for it.

Some of the proceeds will go straight to the companies that sell us enhanced, anonymous services. Other companies will make money by defending our privacy, much the way spam-filters do today.

Do you agree that anonymity is a huge growth market? If so, which companies are best positioned to cash in on it?

01:54 PM

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? Wells Fargo, mind your own business, please from Perspective

Funny how I read this post by Steven Baker just yesterday and commented about privacy and anonymity, when I received a call on my mobile phone today from someone called Alesandro at Wells Fargo. It's Saturday morning. Alesandro points out [Read More]

Tracked on November 19, 2005 03:10 PM

We all make a trade-off when we share our information with a company, hence giving away our privacy. In return, we get better, personalized products and services that satisfy our unique needs. The smartest companies will be those that do not cash in on it, but instead show a great respect towards maintaining the privacy of their customers. The amazing and spiraling growth of technology has made life easier and much more exciting, but has also made it impossible for us to stay anonymous.

But is it really necessary to stay anonymous if we can stay safe and secure? Anonymity can be used for good or bad purposes. It can be used by spammers and identity thieves to stay anonymous, and it can be used by the general public to escape being their victim. The age old dilemma -- do you ban guns or do you own one to defend yourself from the criminals? If staying anonymous is the only way, or the best way, to keep spammers and identity thieves at bay, then yes, anonymity is a huge growth market. But there are other options??

Posted by: Luv Sayal at November 18, 2005 04:58 PM

I am reminded of Vernor Vinge's True Names. My first bet on companies to cash in on this trend would be those in areas of security, identity verification, cryptography, online transaction systems that don't require the input of a credit card number or bank account details and others of their ilk. And yes, I'll take an ID "smart" chip implant if it will secure my identity.

Posted by: Niti Bhan at November 18, 2005 06:32 PM

What if you turn this idea on its head, and think about companies paying us (consumers) for the right to information about us? In the advertising world, a more targeted prospect list generates a higher price. If I'm willing to tell a company more information about me, so that they can customize product advertising to my particular interests, isn't that worth something?

Posted by: Matt Heinz at November 18, 2005 07:58 PM

Hey, I already have to pay extra to keep my ownership of various domain names private. I'm sure all cell phone numbers will all be on public directories before long. We're heading for a "Minority Report" world, like it or not.

Posted by: scott at November 18, 2005 08:56 PM

Lets say Google does set up free broadband wireless paid for with location specific targeted advertisments. They stand to gain by charging us extra to take their eyes off of us.

They'll have economies of scale on the infrastructure from free broadband so they'll be able to offer naked (in the advertising sense) broadband not for free but at a much lower cost than anybody else.

Posted by: KirkH at November 19, 2005 05:22 PM

If I ever run for public office, it would be easy for anyone to find out all the things I'd ever said or done on the Web (barring the occasional lost piece of information). While that does spook me, I think that many, many people will experience the same lack of privacy, so we will all have to learn to respond to it. Some people will likely try to fabricate pasts or falsify identities just to attack others - political campaigns come immediately to mind here. Privacy should remain free, but I don't think it will in many cases.

Posted by: Easton Ellsworth at November 21, 2005 05:56 PM


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