The Two Faces of Social MDM: The Frightening One

Loraine Lawson

Social MDM is raising concerns among privacy groups and some analysts, and to be honest, I completely relate to their concerns. Then I received a briefing on an actual social MDM product, and learned that there’s actually two faces to social MDM: one clever and revolutionary; the other also revolutionary, but a bit frightening.

When people talk about social MDM, they usually mean the mining and integration of social media data into MDM. This sounds great from a corporate perspective. You can use social data to correct data in your MDM and use it to expand what you know, then turn that knowledge into a sales pitch. Someone posted that they need a new computer? Great, let’s spam them with ads — but for individuals, it’s a bit menacing, a bit too “up in my business.”

I recently received a briefing about Informatica MDM 9.5, which included a look at how this type of social MDM works. It showed the MDM system picking up information not just from your posts, but from your friends’ posts as well. (Here's a picture.)

I don’t want to pick on Informatica, because I’m sure other vendors are working in this direction. Being first to market has its advantages and disadvantages; concept criticism comes with the territory. It was impressive, but I confess to being a bit appalled by how easy this mining of social data would be with this new release. This, I think, is the more frightening aspect of MDM.

This type of social MDM extends beyond sentiment analysis into pulling information about customers, including relationships and any information on past purchases, out of social networks and into your MDM systems.

Informatica’s VP of Marketing Chris Boorman kept stressing this is a tool for companies that have earned the customer’s trust. He said it’s a way to learn more about your client and to “look across into the chosen social network of their customers and actually bring that relationship in.”

“The Facebooks, the Twitters, the LinkedIns: Enterprises are looking at how they can tap into that, not just from a brand recognition perspective or a sentiment analysis perspective, but also from a root-to-market perspective,” he said.

I was a bit surprised to learn that Facebook doesn’t charge for you to gather that information from its site. (Another missed opportunity.) Informatica uses the Facebook API for the connection. It will also work with Twitter and LinkedIn.

I can see why companies would love this face of social MDM. It’s understandable. It just doesn’t make me feel better.

I’m not alone. Independent data management consultant and data quality expert Jim Harris recently wrote about this for the Data Roundtable. He contends social MDM is going the wrong way — that personal data should be private, so much so he recommends removing it from MDM completely:

... we need to get the existing data about customers out of MDM and into a personal data locker where customers can manage their own data, protect its privacy, and share it or sell it as they see fit. Therefore, I believe that Social MDM is going the wrong way.

You can see why this would worry many people, not just privacy advocates. Of course, the customer has to “accept” the company as a friend or “like” the business first, but we all know that’s not a fair agreement.

Many of us “liked” organizations long ago as a way of showing our support or preference — before the idea of social MDM existed. That’s not really an agreement to share every aspect of  your life.

But remember: I said there are two faces of MDM. In the next post, I’ll share the more pleasantly clever one.

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