Media Perspective: Super-precise data capture may be too much information

If you've got a spare planner lying around, here's the perfect brief to give him, or her, for one of those "we're-thinking-about-the-long-term, agency-point-of-view, added-value, don't-fire-us" projects that come up now and then.

Do some decent thinking about this and you might even be able to spin it into some PR in the Financial Times.

Here it is. The Government's loss of two CDs containing the details of 25 million benefits claimants has made everyone think about data, identity, who knows what about us and what they might be doing with it. At the same time, the popularity of social networks, and the nature of their advertising plans, is forcing folk to actively think about what elements of their identity they want to share with other people and corporations.

It is also occurring to people that their identity data is worth something.

Given that most clients hold large amounts of information on their customers, are actively looking to get more, and that much of their marketing depends on it, it seems like a good time to really understand people's attitudes towards this whole field.

Some things to consider: What do we think of the emerging idea of "vendor relationship management"? Try Googling it. It's described as the reciprocal of CRM, a way of allowing individuals to manage their relationship with businesses on their own terms. People are writing and thinking about it, and aren't far off getting some open-source code created to administer it. VRM promises to be user-centric rather than business-centric, and a lot of brands will see it as something to be resisted, another dilution of their power to engage and influence. But if it works, it could be hugely useful to both sides of the transaction.

We talk of building genuine relationships with customers - surely those relationships will be more sustainable if they're mutually beneficial and the customer is in charge. While you're Googling, look up Dick Hardt's brilliant presentation on "Identity 2.0". You can find it on YouTube, too. It neatly illustrates the horribly dense thicket of issues and ideas we're plunging into here.

If the next generation of marketing is about super-precise targeting and relevance, based on on-the-fly analysis of customer data and behaviour, then we've got to think hard about how we capture that data, what we do with it, whether we're allowed to do any of the above and, even if we are, whether our customers will hate us for doing it.

Oh, and while you're at it, can you just make sure we're not sticking any CDs of customer data in the post or anything? Just to be on the safe side.