In the excellent documentary “Terms & Conditions May Apply” the film makers confirmed what most us could have guessed at or already knew: people tend to not read the Terms & Conditions for any product or service they engage with.

The documentary is well worth seeking out on Netflix or elsewhere, if only to laugh at those who (spoiler alert) signed away their “mortal souls” as part of one fake set of T’s &C’s. The joke wears off pretty quickly, however, when one realizes that it could just have easily been “me” that agreed to those terms.

None of the global brands chased down by the film makers regarding their terms of services comes out of it very well.

The movie serves to highlight a fundamental problem with much of today’s marketing. So much of today’s marketing is built on a myth, the myth that permission marketing, a concept first introduced by Seth Godin in 1999, is still applicable in a world where marketing enhanced by big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning rules the day. 

Seth Godin is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages.Click To Tweet

The concept of permission-based marketing is sound — a marketer must get permission from an individual before marketing to an individual. The concept presumes that an individual is informed when opting into a marketer’s programs or when buying a marketer’s products and services, and that the individual is giving “informed consent” for future engagements. 

Unfortunately, true informed consent is no longer practical; it’s a myth.

True informed consent means that an individual knows exactly what they’re opting for, not just about understanding the details of the products or services they intend to use but also what will happen with the data that is generated from their use of products and services or from their interactions with a marketing campaign. 

Moreover, it presumes that an individual knows exactly what data may be collected about them, what will be done with the data, and when and who else the data might be shared with. 

Some reading this article might argue that individuals understand very well the value exchange they are participating in when they buy a product or service or get access to something for ‘free’, like a social media account, a game, like Pokémon Go, or are able to conduct a search or use applications like Google Maps.

I’ll attest, on the surface, they may have a rudimentary understanding, but I’ll also argue that the vast majority of people do not understand the long-term social, professional or economic implications of what it means to have their personal data captured over extended periods of time and overseen by countless commercial actors. 

No one can know what the long-term implications of these data practices are because it has never happened in history before on such a global scale.

The fact of the matter is, in modern era of marketing, the primary assumption behind permission marketing no long holds true.

It has become antiquated.  The permission marketing model assumes that people are informed, that they read and understand terms and conditions or terms of service for the products, services and programs they interact with. 

The reality is, however, we know that the vast majority of people do not read or understand the terms they agree too.

Moreover, when marketing is driven by large, unstructured data sets that are being pulled together from a myriad of sources, it is nearly impossible for an individual to be informed about what will happen with their data or what new insights, correlations or predictions may be “derived” about them and how these “derived data” may be used in the future.

The primary assumption behind permission marketing no long holds true.Click To Tweet

There is no doubt that personal and derived data is necessary if marketers are going to deliver the personalized services that individuals want, and there are countless studies that show that people don’t have a problem sharing their data.   

However, there are also an increasing number of studies that show that people don’t like being treated like ‘the product’, that they want control, and that they believe the trade-off of personal data and access to online services or apps is an uneven one.

In the coming months and years, how marketers gain access to the data they need to service individuals at scale will change. 

As we enter 2017, we encourage marketers to begin to recognize and prepare for a shift in the practice of marketing, a shift from “informed consent” to “informed access” marketing.

Unknown to many marketers, after nearly 75 years, personal information management services (PIMS) and the Personal Information Economy are coming of age.

PIMS are online software services that make it possible for individuals to collect, manage, ultimately monetize their personal information through the burgeoning Personal Information Marketplace, a marketplace where individuals can join in and actively participate in the value exchange of their personal information. 

PIMS are online software services that make it possible for individuals to collect, manage, ultimately monetize their personal information.Click To Tweet

In this new market model, people do not give marketers consent to take and use their data, rather they share access to their data via a PIMS.  As along as the individual believes a marketer is providing value, then the marketer will continue to have access to the individual and as soon as the individual believes that this is not the case, then the individual will restrict or block the marketer’s access.

In the not too distant future, we believe we’ll soon find ourselves in an era where the connected individual has complete control over his or her data. In this world, individuals will give informed access to their data, rather than informed consent for it to be taken from them.

I am going to be exploring the changes that informed access will have on brands in further blog posts and in an eBook series that my colleagues and I will complete this month. In addition, we will be sharing what it means for brands to be of service to individuals and to create value for and with people, not from them, at the TCM Institute Summit & Awards Ceremony on Jan. 23-24 in San Francisco.

About the author: Michael Becker is the co-founder & managing partner of mCordis & The Connected Marketer Institute.

Michael Becker is a passionate international marketing entrepreneur and evangelist who previously served as manager director of North America for the Mobile Marketing Association. As a co-founder and managing partner of mCordis, Michael advises marketers, agencies, and technology vendors on marketing, positioning and strategy as it relates to their overall mobile and digital marketing efforts.