When it comes to privacy in social media, people are concerned. But it’s not relevant anymore, or at least not as important as it used to be.
We have to think about how many doors this “change in perspective” will open up.

We all know privacy is important. But what is privacy? What is the borderline between “private” and “public?”
It’s critical to define it, or we have to at least know what we really mean when we say privacy. If not, we are talking about some highly vague value, as a result of which we may end up sacrificing a lot of things for the name of that vague thing. And it is not what we want.

What Do We Really Care?

Privacy is important. No argument about that. I’m just saying, “Let’s be more specific. What do we really care?”
Well, I care about my ID, password, social security number, bank account number, and maybe my license plate number to be linked with my name. I don’t want to disclose my annual income, my mother’s maiden name, which schools I went to, my GPA, my test scores, where I live, what I do for a living, who my family is, and what their names are.

But, can we classify them to “more” and “less” important ones? In other words, the ones I may share and the others I would never share? Yes, that’s what people are actually doing anyway.

Privacy vs. Benefits or Utilities

People are already giving up lots of their private information. Foursquare makes me tell where I am. (Note that it does not tell it or force me to tell it. I am telling it because I chose to.) Facebook tells a lot about myself. Twitter reveals what I am doing and thinking. How about Google and their AdSense and Gmail?

Yet people are saying they are very much concerned about privacy. But wait, are we talking about the same privacy here? We don’t know, because some are talking about their password while others may be referring to their real-time whereabout. And besides, aren’t some people already providing their (so-called) private information in their social media areas, willingly and voluntarily?

Let’s face it. It’s really a matter of what we mean by privacy and to what extent we are willing to share. And more importantly to marketers like us, it’s a matter of making people give up privacy yet feel good about it. It is about making people voluntarily give up some of their private information, and still make them feel the act was very much worthwhile. So it is never about “protecting privacy per se” unless we are building some security service.

Successful Service Means Getting More Information

Building a successful service is all about making people provide their information, professionally, voluntarily, and graciously. It shouldn’t be anything like, “Hey, forget about privacy, and we will give you something.” Rather, it should be like, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great to get this (or be able to do this)? Here are some things you need to do for us and for yourself.”

Think what Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare did. They have made people nicely give up their email contents, blog posts, current thoughts in 140-word, and where they are, all coupled with their profile information. (Come to think of it, how do we protect privacy while opening up my personal profile?)

Can you notice something? All the above services–turned out to be tremendously successful–have OPENED UP THE REALM OF PRIVACY LITTLE BY LITTLE. So our question should be, “What next, and how?” Not, “How do we protect privacy?“
What am I willing to give up? What am I likely to give up in the future? And what will I get in return?

Posted by ecarus