Online privacy has been all over the news: Just this week a U.S. Congressman introduced draft legislation that would regulate how online ad networks use personal data and Facebook, already under fire for privacy issues, made headlines for exposing some users’ private chats. And yesterday the Lift Conference 2010 in Geneva—a Europe/Asia conference exploring the social implications of new technologies—had a major session on The Redefinition of Privacy.
How much do people really care about online privacy? It seems that while we want to share much of ourselves, we still cling to notions of privacy. Fast Company writer Farhad Manjoo calls this “the paradox of privacy”: “We want some semblance of control over our personal data, even if we likely can’t be bothered to manage it.”
Attitudes appear to be shifting away from privacy as the social Web comes of age. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claims that privacy is no longer a social norm. And the Huffington Post’s Ariana Huffington recently told The New York Times, “The Internet is growing up, [and the] trend is away from anonymity.”
Even as privacy advocates rally for more control, a growing number of websites and apps “indulge [people’s] urge to divulge,” reported The New York Times. People broadcast their latest purchases (haul videos), credit card transactions (Blippy) and travel plans (Dopplr). They routinely share real-time, geo-tagged thoughts and actions via Tweets and Foursquare check-ins.
Brands should get on the transparency bandwagon and embrace Facebook’s new Social Plugins, advises Forrester analyst Augie Ray, who says privacy concerns are “a normal and expected phase in the maturation of social media.” The key will be to give consumers control (allowing them to opt in or out) and err on the side of caution; as Ray says, hard-earned trust “can be lost in one horrible moment.”
Photo credit: alancleaver_2000