2011 trends: Web lovers and privacy

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2011/01/19 · 17 comments 12.871 views

We addressed several privacy issues in previous posts:

Image - How face recognition works.The early 2010 launch of Google Buzz was greeted by an outcry over privacy. Google did not do enough to warn users that their private contacts would be publicly disclosed.

This blog post is part of our My.ComMetrics 2011 trend briefing series. Find out what all this means for users and their social media use in 2011 below.

    1. Attractiveness of free versus privacy

Buying something for nothing is a bit of an oxymoron. What is it about free that makes it so enticing to us?

Image - graphic - Legislators & regulators are concerned that Internet users have been left with too little control of how their personal information is used - how it works and what data is gathered to serve you with targeted advertising - privacy quo vadis.

When we get something for free we seem to forget the downside of a purchase or signing up for a service. We may in fact perceive it as far more valuable than it really is.

There is no visible loss and because people are afraid of losses it makes the choice extremely attractive. So we choose free. And even if Wifi comes as a free add-on, trust me, you pay for it at Starbucks.

But using Facebook, Xing, LinkedIn for free means that the provider has to make money somehow. One option is collecting information ranging from users’ preferences to their surf behavior.

This information can then be used to serve targeted advertising and provide information to those wiling to pay for it.

Sign up with your email to get our next post first, you’ll be glad you did.

    2. Sharing versus privacy

Image - Ivy Bean - world's oldest tweeter died at 104 - her last tweet on July 4, 2010 said: going to have my lunch now will be back laterThese days people have various ways to share their information, whereabouts and doings all day long.

But once something is on the Internet it will stay there for a long time. Countries including France, Switzerland and the US have had court cases where Facebook status updates where used to charge and convict people.

McMillen v. Hummingbird Speedway, Inc., PICS No. 10-3174 (Jefferson Co. September 9, 2010, Foradora, P.J.) – Westlaw citation: 2010 WL 4403285 (Jefferson Co. 2010), (4 pages – 195 KB download)

Some lawyers have already suggested that Facebook and other services should include a Miranda warning that whatever you share on these networks can and will be used against you in a court of law.

Image - cartoon IHT - p. 9 2010-10-16 - The importance of protecting consumer privacy - it is currently being eroded each minute by Google Android, Facebook, Windows 7 smartphone, iPhone, etc., indicating privacy policies are worth little, if anything.

This also explains how sharing, when combined with increasingly aggressive forms of journalism, recruiting and so forth, helps the determined uncover whatever might damage or blemish another party’s reputation. WikiLeaks’ indiscretions enthralled a worldwide audience.

    3. User behavior versus privacy

Image - Table 5 - source - 2010-10-21 - The perspective of European children. Initial findings from the EU Kids Online survey of 9- to 16-year-olds and their parents - p.38 - VIEW VIDEO - click on image - new blog post, see Saturday for more material.Besides our willingness to share and attraction to freebies, most research focuses on skills needed to improve security and risk management in order to safeguard privacy. But knowing the right thing to do does not mean we do it.

My experience has been that, if I check with a group of teens how they have set up their Facebook privacy settings, not even 10 percent have restricted things to protect their privacy. In fact, most have never looked at these options since signing up or the service.

But it is not just some specific behaviors that may weaken privacy protection. Installing certain Android or iPhone apps means user information is passed on to the apps’ owners. The same goes for certain Facebook apps.

Unfortunately, even if the user does not want this, there is no way to opt out. Nor do regulations require app providers to handle this properly or face the consequences. In turn, our privacy can be, and often is, violated by using such apps.

Bottom line and take-aways

The trend for 2011 is another erosion of privacy thanks to people using smartphones to share their geographical location. And geo-tagging an increasing number of images leaves a growing trail of information on the Internet for everybody to see.

Users must not only articulate a clear picture of the long-term consequences of their behavior, they must follow a coherent and convincing strategy to protect their long-term interests. Short-term mistakes may come back to haunt someone years down the road if one is not careful today.

Reviewing privacy and social media activities has taught us that some users, especially younger ones, near and far, are not very successful on either count.

More resources

If you like this post, please share it with your friends. How about asking them to comment after reading, I love to hear what people think!

Are you with me on these critical issues regarding privacy? Where do YOU see this going? Please leave a comment; the floor is yours!

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  • Roberto

    UrsnnThis is a nice post and the privacy issue is something we should worry about. Anonmity we no longer have….nnFor instance, cookies (which sit on your computer and traick the website you visit) and beacons (i.e. code embedded on websites that monitors the behavior of visitors) have become a fact of online life.nnBut I am worries when two-thirds of the apps tested on Google’s Android operating system (yes a small sample of only 30 Apps) passed on some kind of personal data to advertisers. Like Facebook, Google has a regulations that forbid this…. but as we see unless it is being checked, Apps violate these regulations more often than not apparently.n

    • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

      RobertonnThanks for sharing: “This is a nice post and the privacy issue is something we should worry about.”nnI also feel that unless we are able to resolve these issues, a potentially highly profitable way of delivering services to consumers and companies will fail to reach its full potential, as users resist using the applications or cry foul and thereby get regulators start to interfere.nnFacebook has thousands of applications that it banned and very few transferred user information without authorization. Nevertheless, by defintiion. though, transgressions like this are among the hardest to identify.nnSocial networks like Facebook or LinkedIn need to master their huge databases and systems including batteries of servers. They must be prepared to hand more of the control to users. This will be the surest way for companies to reduce the risk that somebody tries to take the keys away.

    • Petra

      Yes it’s hard to avoid this kind of spying. Even if you delete cookies from your browser, you still have flash cookies in your system… nnI will make a post about this on my blog http://petramadolqueries.net/ soon.

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