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July 13, 2010

It’s Getting Personal: Making the Most of Relaxing Privacy Expectations

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Always discovering and testing tools of the trade, last week a colleague pointed me toward Gist. Gist aggregates a user’s contacts and connections across their multiple social networks, e-mail accounts and calendars. It requires that you submit your account login credentials and to approve the service to access to your accounts. It’s a run-of-the-mill request familiar to anyone who’s ever used a third-party application with their Facebook or Twitter account.

So why am I so freaked out?

The Privacy Ice Age

In March 2008 I made my debut on the Bruce Clay blog with an optimistic vision of targeted advertising. I liked ads and content delivered just for me with a personal flair. My only concern was with my info getting into Big Brother’s hands.

But as commenters were quick to point out, user’s personal data is used by advertisers more than by the government. And in the two years since my trusting embrace of personalized ad practices, I’ve witnessed a suspiciously dismissive Eric Schmidt claim there’s no need for privacy if you’ve got nothing to hide and a power-drunk Facebook decide its privacy terms were an outdated inconvenience.

My fear with Gist is that if I allow them access to all my online channels, they’ll have an incredibly detailed picture of me, fitting the currently fractured puzzle pieces together with ease. Right now I hold on to some illusion of privacy by imagining that no one’s going to put in the effort to trace the online footprints of any one individual. But if it were all done for them? If I tidily packaged my online persona and wrapped it up with a bow? I bet there’s someone out there who would happily swoop that up.


Do you know who’s watching you? CC BY SA 2.0

So I build up my privacy paranoia fortress, adding scraps of tinfoil when I find them. But it’s gotten lonely in here. As those who grew up in the Internet era come up in the world, ever more comfortable sharing their life online, the concept of privacy has morphed into a new form. The new model is that privacy isn’t expected as long as a sense of control can be relied upon.

Things Are Warming Up for Marketers

People will forgo privacy for a number of advantages, including entertainment, social belonging and saving money. Despite my ranting and raving, if people are content to tell us about their likes and dislikes, it’d be a disservice to a client or business not to act on every competitive advantage. Here are some of the available and emerging technologies taking personal interaction to the next level.

Facebook Social Plugins: In April I interviewed Marty Weintraub, of aimClear Marketing, about Facebook Social Plugins. The Like Button, Activity Feed, Friendpile and Livestream are among the plugins that encourage user interaction by feeding the sense of social belonging and community. Using an already popular platform means a lower barrier of entry for your visitors to get engaged. And it can mean a foot in the door for building a lasting social bond.

Interactive Video Ads: Several platforms are experimenting with video ads as a way of attracting attention and building a following. Google is encouraging advertisers to consider the advantages of interactive video ads and on Twitter, one ad platform wants to provide engaging video ads as a method of growing followers and retweet counts.

Better Banners: Search has held the title of advertising darling for some time, thanks to targeting options and a mass audience, however some companies are trying to bring sexy back to the banner ad, with more graphics and interactive features. When a Toy Story 3 banner featured prominently on YouTube let viewers create their own three-eyed little green man, I was mesmerized for at least 10 minutes, clicked through to the site, and then played around with the full-featured toy creator for a while. I probably would’ve seen the movie anyway, but 10 whole minutes? Unheard of.

Power I Self Regulation: Advertisers interested in the benefits of targeting and sensitive to the privacy concerns of their audience may be able to have it both ways as long as they’re open about it.Understanding users’ concerns of privacy and ad targeting, advertising trade group, the Future of Privacy Forum, has introduced the Power I icon as a way to build consumer trust through transparency. Yes, users can opt-out of targeting by an individual advertiser, yet being recognized as a forthcoming brand may earn brownie points for the brand along the way.





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