Privacy is Not Dead: Three Tools that Provide User Control

By: Guest | November 29, 2010 | 

I am very flattered and humbled to be asked to write here… especially about privacy, the grand-prize winning idea I submitted for the Spin Sucks 9 Marketing Trends webinar contest.

I view social media as a revolution in interpersonal communication technology. Notice the word marketing is not in that statement. The current platforms were created to connect people to people and, based on current architecture, have enabled marketing to invade our personal space.

Note that no one ever asked us, the people, our thoughts on marketing, privacy, or control of our private communications among friends. When you call someone on the phone are you OK if others listen in? Or read your personal email? No, you would get a gun and fix that problem!

I run a Facebook page for a client. More than 75 percent of the Fans have 100 percent private profiles. The people at the forefront of social media have about the same percentage of completely private profiles. When Pete Cashmore of Mashable wrote that privacy is dead, he lost all his credibility.

Of course this benefits Facebook and Mashable. But does it benefit you? Were you asked? The people have spoken. I believe eventually we will be in complete control of how we communicate, the platforms, the privacy, everything, and it will be integrated into all sorts of devices in simple intuitive ways. And that will start with 2011.

Great new examples emerging:

Diaspora. This new network wants you to have control of all your data. You can communicate to your Twitter and Facebook friends, but all your data is yours.

Path. This new technology allows small networks of 50 people so you do not have to broadcast to the world.

Twitsper. This allows you to send group DMs. I can actually send private messages to more than one person at a time.

Imagine being able to share in all sorts of ways privately when we wish it to be. Social media marketing could become completely different. Viral will still be possible, but it will take better content and more leg work. There might be a dearth of public data, potentially ruining business models based on analytics and social media marketing. What about PR? What if the majority of social content is not public for brands to monitor sentiment?

Current business models were chosen based on exploiting our personal connections and activities for brand marketing purposes. But who wouldn’t pay a few dollars a month for great technology and control? Look for hybrid subscription models where you choose whether to pay for no ads, or use free with ads. Hootsuite just rolled out a premium account for $5.99 per month that would remove sponsored Tweets from your feed. It will be interesting to see how many sign up.

Howie Goldfarb is president and CEO of Sky Pulse Media, an agency focused on helping clients achieve outsized results in measurable bottom-line-impacting ways. He had a 14-year career in direct B2B sales before deciding to lighten up his dreary work life and move into advertising.

Editor’s note: Howie Goldfarb is the grand-prize winner of our 9 Marketing Trends for 2011 contest, in which we asked readers to submit the ninth trend for our upcoming webinar of the same name, which will be held on December 15. (It’s not too late to sign up!) The above thoughts are about his submitted trend, user control. In the webinar, we will discuss how to adjust your business to leverage all nine trends.

  • Hey there Howie,

    Great post, sir, and an important one too. I think the main problem can be split into two – ignorance by users, and poor communication by providers. Yes, we are often screwed on privacy by the likes of Facebook, but how many people ignore the FAQ’s and tips to get started, in the rush to sign up?

    Having said that, providers need to be a lot clearer in advising what different settings mean, and to not make the standard setting as “all public”.

    I’m not sure about the new services like Diaspora or Path – Ning, Squidoo and other services like that are already offering this kind of privacy, as well as forums and Buddypress websites. Be interesting to see how much of an uptake these new guys get.

  • HowieSPM

    @DannyBrown Thanks Danny. The new services were meant as examples of developments. Rich Harris of Seagate who also does production work on the Quick-n-Dirty podcast (@47project) did a nice piece today on Path. Where looks like he would prefer using that to say Twitter for posting photos. Now that stream becomes removed from the public realm. I am 100% for Opt In vs Opt Out in every form of Social Media or Mobile.

    And while I know we want to shar epublically some things that 70% clamp down rate for Facebook tells all in my opinion. Once we have a choice we will have to adapt.

    Link to Rich’s post

  • TimBaran

    Cool post! My take on privacy is not if we have it or not, but how do those that promise it safeguard that promise. There are myriad examples of such failures and breaches. And more recently, Wikileaks destroys any notion of such assumptions. Though not a real preference or solution, I feel much safer removing all privacy settings and tempring (somewhat) what I say on most, if not all platforms. Def intrigued by the new Diaspora and Path that you mentioned.

  • ginidietrich

    Hey crazy! Thanks for the guest post and for the grand prize winning idea! This is really good because it’s totally outside of my comfort zone so it’ll be fun to take what you’ve blogged about here and teach marketing and PR professionals how to implement it in their programs for 2011.

  • HowieSPM

    @TimBaran I actually am ok with things being public as long as it is explained up front. When Facebook started the open graph which is the Like buttons you see on other websites, just like this blog post they did not tell people that if you click Like, it gives that website open access to your Facebook profile. Technically Gini can now post Spin Sucks ads in the 5 people who Liked this post’s live feed is how I understand it works. Facebook did this and the only people who really know were readers of say Tech Crunch or Marketing/SocialMedia blogs. So expose me all you want just tell me how it’s done so I can opt in. Just like what you are doing.

  • MatchesMalone

    Actually, Privacy IS dead, however, you’re attributing the quote to the wrong author. Mashable was merely reporting what Mark Zuckerberg said at whatever media conference he was presenting at the time. And the fact that you can use some of the above to mask your identity, doesn’t mean that there’s not an available work around. If you post information online, expect others to have it.

  • @MatchesMalone Not sure I agree with the “expect others to have it” mantra. Sure, expect those who are hosting whatever platform to have it, but everyone else? That should be *my* choice, not some network administrator.

  • HowieSPM

    @MatchesMalone My Privacy is dead comes from Pete Cashmores article he wrote. I agree with you in terms of the internet. Meaning if I post a blog anyone can see it. Anyone can see this comment. I changed my last name on Facebook because it is my personal social network. No ones business what I do with my friends. And just because the current tools don’t give us much privacy options, doesn’t mean they won’t come to market eventually. I think there is a market for them. Just like Twisper. I have two good friends from Twitter that we group email together a lot. If I could do a group DM I might choose Twitter as the platform.

    Would you be ok with me listening to your phone calls. reading your emails, or looking in your window? But I do agree many of the existing tools make a lot of things public and we need to be aware how we use them and what we post! Thanks for the comment!

  • MatchesMalone

    @HowieSPM Right, and he was simply quoting Zuck, as that’s where I heard it first….

    My ISP already has the ability to read my emails. The US government already listens to my phone calls. Anyone can look in my windows, however, the blinds are up most of the time….

  • debmorello

    Excellent Howie, very important to keep this topic fresh and at the forefront – I agree with one of Danny’s comments regarding the ignorance of users and lack of clarity on the part of providers. It is incumbent (in any arena / industry) that both parties take responsibility. Now, on the other hand – on the issue of “Privacy” – dear world, it no longer exists. Honestly, as someone who worked for the Dept. of State and experienced top secret clearance investigations – assume ‘anything’ you do on the internet is there for anyone to access.

  • HowieSPM

    @debmorello Thanks for reading and commenting Debbi!