Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
May 16, 201111:20 PM

The Other Side Of Privacy

You can't throw a rock and not hit a concern about privacy and the use of our data online.

This is a huge concern because us Marketers have screwed it up so royally over the years. From a lack of permission and abuse to security breaches and scams. It's so bad that government plays an active role in deciding what can and can't be done (yes, lawmakers). Still, we keep botching it. From newer media initiatives (think Facebook Beacon) to cyber-attacks (see what Sony has been dealing with), not a week goes by that some sort of privacy breach or plans for a corporation to do something funky with consumer's data isn't in the news.

Your data is not your own.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you join an online social network or sign-up to an online service, its incumbent on you to review and understand the terms and conditions. Let's assume - like 90% of the population - that even if you did read it, the legal intricacies are not clear and that you have no idea what you're signing up for, then govern yourself by this: whatever they are giving to you to use for free is not free. You usage is being turned into data that the platform is going to use (in one way, shape or form). This will result in activities like targeting you with advertising or even leaking your usage to a third-party (like an advertiser or media company). So, if you're not comfortable with your usage being tracked and your information being seen, it's best to avoid these channels.

This will piss some people off.

There are many people who believe that whatever data and information you put into a platform (let's say Facebook, for argument's sake) should be yours and yours alone. These same people believe that Facebook's true value is this data set and that the company should not be able to monetize it without our consent or without compensating us for it. Sorry, I'm not buying that. The payment is the service. When people sign-up, the free usage is not free. The fee we pay (for getting all of this cool, free stuff) is the pass-off of what we're doing while we're engaged in their channel. I don't necessarily like this, but it is this way.

The other side of privacy.

Hypothetical question: would you be willing to pay a monthly service fee to use Facebook and - in doing so - this fee ensures that all of your data is your own? Facebook will never use any of your content without your consent. Do you think this is a viable business model? I don't. I think the majority of people want Facebook to be free. I also see countless instances where people give out way too much data about themselves just to save a buck or two. The other side of privacy is knowing and understanding that whatever you put online is now in the public domain. The other side of privacy is knowing that you decide what you put into these channels and who you connect with. The truth is that you decide how much data you're creating and your own level of privacy. Facebook doesn't and Google doesn't either.

You are the other side of privacy. 

  • You don't have to use your full, real name (just let the people you are trying to connect to know your handle).
  • You can be connected to your spouse without identifying your connection in your info.
  • You don't have to publish pictures of your children and family members.
  • You don't have to update your status with every little life detail.

It makes things a little less fun.

OK, that's harsh... it doesn't have to be less fun, but you can throw the data vacuum and privacy snoops off by both omitting or changing minor pieces of information that make your experience both good for you and your connections, while at the same time keeping a semblance of privacy. The truth is this: until we have full data portability and until our avatars are our own, legal, possession, we have to assume that nothing we do as our digital selves is private or that the data won't be used in some way.

Privacy and our data is ours... we just have have chose wiser how (and to who) we distribute it.

By Mitch Joel