"The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
– Helen Keller
Nearly every day, I come across stories regarding complaints over companies’ practices on the tracking and monitoring of their customers’ behavior. Companies like Apple, Google and Facebook—as well as numerous mobile application developers—have been targeted by both the government and privacy groups for retaining, mining and distributing data that may be considered a violation of privacy. The Federal Trade Commission has begun to crack down on these practices. In fact, Tech Crunch recently quoted David Vladeck, The Director of The Bureau of Consumer Protection of the FTC, as stating, “If you don’t want to see us, don’t collect data you don’t need” during a recent speech to mobile app developers. That sounds reasonable.
What I cannot fathom, however, is this: while the software industry is collecting and making use of as much data about their customers as is allowed by law, many telecommunications companies either wantonly destroy their data or ignore the data they are required to keep!
Let me give you an example of the difference between industries. The other day, I was shopping online for a cordless drill. I visited all the usual sites but found the best deal for the model I wanted on Amazon. However, I never actually completed my purchase. Do you think Amazon let me get away that easily? No, of course not: the next day I received an email with specials on cordless drills as well as drill bits. Furthermore, while browsing the web, I began to see banner ads promoting other sites where I could find great deals on power tools. Bottom line: they knew what I wanted and attempted to market to me accordingly.
Our phone company, on the other hand, seems absolutely oblivious to our organizations’ needs. Now keep in mind that we like our phone company, which offers us hosted IP PBX service with all you can eat domestic origination and termination for one low price. The price, however, does not include un-metered international calling. We do make several hundred dollars’ worth of international phone calls a month from the office, almost all of it through Google Voice. Why? No reason, really. We just started using it from our mobile phones and now use it in the office. The quality is okay and we do like that we know the rates upfront but would certainly be open to alternatives that did not require prepayment and could potentially cut off mid-call if the prepayment runs out.
The point is, if my phone company was paying attention to what my Call Detail Records were telling them, they would see that we receive several thousand minutes of international phone calls per month, but curiously, we make almost none. Wouldn’t it make sense for them to at least inquire as to why this is the case? I can tell you, based on my experience, if Amazon ever got into the voice business, they’d not only be inquiring but they would be beating down our door at any opportunity to win more business out of our company. You have to wonder why most voice providers are not doing the same thing.