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Scott McNealy: Your data is safer with marketers than governments

Guess what the former Sun man runs now? Yup. A marketing company

You're better off with your data in the hands of a marketer than a government, says former Sun Microsystems supremo Scott McNealy, because you can change who you buy from, but you can't easily switch countries.

“A long time ago someone said: 'You have no privacy – get over it',” McNealy said. That “someone” was McNealy himself and he now says “I got a lot of grief for that, but it has been absolutely true.”

But the way privacy has eroded has surprised him, he says. “Digital natives are not worried about it [loss of privacy]. Older people are used to seeing governments get scope creep and do more than protecting your liberties and rights. They do education. Health care. Loans.

“The only time people should be worried about privacy is when government does more than protection of their lives and liberties.

“Government is great at the red herring of saying business will know something about you and that is bad. I am not afraid of business. But I am afraid of a bureaucrat who can impact my tax rates or health benefits or what school my kid can go to.”

He adds: “If AT&T screws around with my data, I go to Verizon. If the USA screws with my data, I cannot leave.”

McNealy also feels that businesses' use of data will inevitably be benign, because data is the only thing that lets them sell in an increasingly digital world. And because they'll try to sell to us all with or without data.

“I want businesses having access to my data and knowing what I want to buy,” he told The Register. “I don't want them spamming me about pantihose. I want to know about golf shoes with soft spikes that work.”

He says he feels certain marketers armed with good data won't spam punters about anything, rather sending targeted and timely offers that appear when people are ready to buy.

And McNealy is just the man to talk to when you fancy buying or selling pantihose, golf shoes or anything else, because one of the things keeping him busy is serving as executive chair of marketing software company Wayin. Which he wanted to talk to El Reg about when we asked him about Tim Berners-Lee's goal to restore privacy to the web.

Wayin's new effort sounds interesting regardless of McNealy's view of privacy, as it has just announced an app store for advertisers and marketers.

The idea is that large organisations can capture IP and methodologies from past campaigns and lodge them in the app store. By doing so they get to re-use IP, so that Christmas campaign that worked in one region can be deployed in another next year. The app store will also let third parties like freelancer or agencies offer campaigns and other assets for sale.

Wayin will also offer modules of its own. There's a meme generator, live voting for Facebook Live and Periscope, chatbot creations, prize fulfillment-as-a-service and even a way to create ads that break out of the tight formats offered by social networks and allow acquisition of data.

McNealy says data is critical because whenever he talks to big brands they fear introducing a private label competitor to their products. “The only way to fight back is to service customers directly,” he says.

And the only way to do that is to gather data about prospects. Which Wayin will happily sell you: the company has a trove of data on one hundreds of millions of people..

McNealy says every last byte of that data was volunteered after punters opted in. ®

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