What does Privacy mean now?

Feb 21

What does Privacy mean now?

I wish I had more time to blog. It is a great way to distill your thoughts about everything you read every day, especially around complex areas (which is what I do on my commute, via my iPhone). Alas, I am just trying to move a ball forward every day and kicks some goals for StreetHawk.

There is a lot in the press about privacy at the moment, and some great commentary about what this actually means in the new ‘social’  world.  The discussion exploded after  a number of apps were ‘discovered’ accessing users entire address books and even uploading it to their servers without the users permission. I find this shocking. What I also find shocking is the amount of information Facebook (FB) gives StreetHawk as a company for the benefit of letting users login to StreetHawk with their FB ID.

I am a FB user. I don’t regularly go in and check the Privacy Statement – I mean, who really does. When I login to my Airbnb app using my FB login, do I know what information I am imparting to the Airbnb? It is certainly NOT in their permission box, nor is it in many others. They, like us, ask for the minimum amount of data from FB, but what this gives us as a company is everything in their profile, their friends and even their email address.

I read a great article recently – wish I could find it – about the fact that there are many dubious practices around privacy, but the fact is that even with lots of lobby and government groups jumping up and down, nothing is being done about it. The writer made the statement that this might be because people don’t really care. Or that the downsides of having their privacy invaded aren’t really very bad, and at most, incredibly unlikely?

Our home address for example is held by many organisations and individuals.  It is really not that hard to find someone if you want to. If we’re going to have a stalker, it’s likely to be an ex-partner and they already know where you live and hang out.

And of course I have to mention the whole cookie advertising discussion here as well. OK, I think that tracking what people do, where they go, with permission and as long as it is anonymous, is a good thing. It means that everyone in the advertising eco-system is happier (what consumer really wants irrelevant advertising?). But, when Google just gets trickier and trickier, it takes the whole cause back. Read this from Business Insider today. http://read.bi/xCxkR6

As a company navigating this, you know that you have to abide by the law, but some of the practices of what is happening sail pretty close to the line, feel unethical, but actually make you uncompetitive if you don’t use the same tactics as your competitors. I mean, somewhere in the FB Privacy Policy permissions around using your FB login for 3rd parties will be somewhere…. but I would make a bet and say that less than 5% of FB users have read it.

I follow with an article by Graham Spencer from Mac Stories on what it means to over-compensate on permissions. If you use location-based services on your iPhone, you are probably as annoyed as I am every time I get asked my permission for something that is integral to using the app.

We start treating these permissions like wallpaper, undoing the good that was intended. Graham makes some great suggestions so hopefully someone from Apple is listening.

We have to keep talking about these issues as a business community. We  have to navigate very new waters. It is complex, I think ‘consumer’ views and technology has the ability to capture more information than ever before.