Biz Tips: Marketers, Are You Violating People’s Privacy? Here’s How It Feels Like

Biz Tips: Marketers, Are You Violating People’s Privacy? Here’s How It Feels Like


Marketers, Are You Violating People’s Privacy? Here’s How It Feels Like

I finally understand why data privacy laws and informed consent are necessary.

Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

I’ve had a simple event registration turn into an overzealous, yet misguided attempt to foster community.

Barely after completing registration, I received a WhatsApp ping:

“(Random phone number) has added you to a group (XXX)”

Another message: “Welcome Joshua to the group. Can you please introduce yourself?”

A few seconds later, another private message from an unknown number:

“Can you please introduce yourself in the group? This helps everyone to know you better. Everyone in the event is here in this group, even the speaker”.



Who were these people? How did they get my number? Why were they asking me to introduce myself?

Strike One: Not telling me I would be added to a group and sharing my personal phone number to a WhatsApp group filled with strangers.

Okay, maybe I’ll give her a chance.

I wrote a polite reply to her:

“Hi, nice to meet you, I appreciate what you’re doing but I did not consent to having my phone number shared with everyone. Please remove. Thank you.”

She agreed to remove me.

“Wow, that was easy. Maybe she’s not so bad, right?”

Thinking that was the end of it, I added: “Next time perhaps you can ask us privately if we want to join a group before adding. Thanks”.

I intended to close the conversation there.

But she took it as a cue to CONTINUE the conversation:

“Thanks for telling me! What do you do? Let’s get to know each other so I can help you better through the community”.

Wait WHAT?

Strike Two: Please take the hint and end the conversation when a person is already visibly uncomfortable.

I don’t want to be forced to interact with people. I just want to attend the workshop, maybe ask some questions and leave.

On came the questions:

“What do you do at work? You work at X right? Do you know Y?

I was flabbergasted. How could someone not know when to stop?

It felt like those group stalking (research) sessions from college spent huddled over a computer looking up personal details of a friend’s new partner and discussing them together.

Except this time the new girlfriend was me.

I was creeped out

Thing is, I understood what she was trying to achieve.

This girl was an over-enthusiastic community manager trying to build a close-knit community by any means possible.

But it felt like I was being arm-twisted into something I did not want to do.

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

I had enough.

I demanded for a refund of the money I paid little more than an hour ago.

And she (finally) got the hint that I found her methods and over-enthusiasm distasteful.

  • Strike One: I did not ask to have my number shared with strangers without consent
  • Strike Two: I did not want to be forced into a faux-community and being arm-twisted into sharing information about myself before I was ready to do so.
  • Strike Three: I don’t want my background details to (so obviously) be brought up in conversation. If you want to bring up personal details, please be subtle and do so at appropriate stages of the relationship.

Theoretically, I understood what she was doing.

If the organisers knew more about the attendees, interactions would be (presumably) more engaging.

Now, if only she had been less pushy, read the room more and laid down what she was going to do while asking for my consent, this would have gone down better.

It was good intentions ruined by a tackless, overzealous approach.

Don’t make your audience and customers feel like a statistic.

This is why we need privacy laws:

When the GDPR laws were implemented earlier this year, I loathed it professionally.

We were scrambling to make sure our site was GDPR-compliant.

It was a headache.

But now, I finally understand why data privacy laws are necessary – to protect ourselves from overzealous marketers.

Key Takeaway:

Consent is key;

As marketers, sometimes we get too wrapped up in our goals.

We forget the person on the other side of the screen is a human too.

We need to understand the appropriate stages of interaction when you’re trying to build a relationship with them.

Don’t make your audience feel disrespected when you’re building a relationship with them.

Otherwise, we risk creeping out our audience and getting blacklisted.

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Marketers, Are You Violating People’s Privacy? Here’s How It Feels Like was originally published in Marketing And Growth Hacking on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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