'This is Your Life' – The Privacy ‘Red Book’

Do you remember the famous red book of Michael Aspel in the 1980's biographical TV show 'This is Your Life'? The book presented the guest of the day with a full account of their life, detailing everything from their baby snaps through to their loves, laughs and losses. It was a revealing personal portrayal, reflecting parts of celebrities’ lives that fans and viewers would not have otherwise had access to. However, sadly for some, the show was eventually taken off air. Perhaps they ran out of interesting celebrities?

I was recently on a long haul flight browsing through the duty free magazine when a fellow passenger in the seat next to me struck up a conversation. It started very simply with what he had been up to on his travels to him giving me a full blown account of his entire private life for the next few hours (including job title, company he worked for, address and marital trials and tribulations). In essence he gave me his 'Red Book'. Whilst there were certainly chapters of this verbal autobiography that had me on the edge of my seat, I began to wonder what made this individual feel comfortable enough to divulge such intimate details to me at 37,000ft after having known me for all of 30 seconds. After all we are constantly inundated with cautions about sharing personal data and from a young age we are told not to talk to strangers.

The situation got me thinking about what privacy means (aside from its technical definitions) and how people make decisions on when to invite outsiders into their lives. It is clear to me that the concept is ultimately personal and to a degree, value agnostic. Dahrl Pedersen (1997) suggests that privacy does not mean removing oneself from the presence of others but it involves controlling the amount of contact with others. How does your business consider what would make a customer willing to hand-over pages of their 'Red Book' when designing your interfaces with them? And what is it about your business that makes customers more likely to do so, given people value their privacy in different ways? Ultimately we move into the ‘trust’ debate and this influences the relationship consumers have with your brand. Building trust means your customers are more likely to be loyal and feel confident that you will keep their ‘Red Book’ safe and secure.

Consumers are becoming ever more demanding and the influence and smack of the citizen activist should not be underestimated when they take on the law and the ‘corporates’. Your customers need you to give them comfort and confidence that you are protecting their crown jewels and with emerging data protection legislation and rapidly evolving cyber security threats, customer trust should be pushed to the top of your Executive agenda. Failure to do so is likely to result in your brand making an appearance in a ‘This is your Life’ style press release where your intimate details and failures will be exposed, risking the trust you have built with your customers.

At PwC and PwC Legal, we are skilled and experienced in advising our clients on how to avoid operating with unnecessary risk in this area. Our Enforcement Tracker details failures to protect personal data and privacy and provides a compelling view on trends of failure.

Pendersen, D. (1997) 'Psychological Functions of Privacy' Journal of Environmental Psychology 17, 147-156


Jane Wainwright | Senior Manager | PwC - UK
[email protected] | +44 (0) 207 212 4485

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