Monday, February 22, 2010

Privacy and Piracy

There was a study done in 2009 to determine the public's view on various forms of Behavioral Targeting for Advertising. The study was done by major heavy hitters in the Social Science Academic world. You can download and view the study here:

Link for SSRN Study

I am not surprised at the findings. We as a society have a right to privacy. It is in the Constitution. Every time there is an infringement there is an uproar. Whether this is Bush's NSA eavesdropping illegally on Americans (my view btw) or Facebook constantly trying expose people's content and behavior for monetary gain (Beacon, etc).

Now I have heard people like Pete Cashmore at Mashable state the end of privacy. Granted he is biased because he is making his fortune reporting and advising on social networks. This blog doesn't agree. Yes we all expose ourselves to a ridiculous amount online. But as the study proves we want control of that exposure.

Brands and Ad Networks view is why do we want to see advertising that isn't relevant to us. And thus they should be allowed to shadow us to improve what we are exposed too. But that is a self serving view because they want to increase return on investment, vs necessarily looking out for the consumer.

So there is a clash between privacy and piracy. Facebook in the terms and conditions owns the content we post and can use it to make money. Of course we view that stuff as personal and private, so we feel they are pirating our content. And while we use social networks for a broad range of communication from superficial to intimate, we look at them as private spaces. Similar to one's living room or bedroom.

Crossing these lines could kill a business. We don't like our information sold and hijacked. I myself can not wait for a true competitor to Facebook and the moment I find one I am going to tell everyone possible. We tend to block as much as possible from the world outside our networks. This is why we have caller id and why so many people keep their accounts private on Facebook. This is why we are Ok with Amazon using Behavioral Targeting to recommend products, but freak if we find out Google has been following us. It is also why Ad Blocker Plus (42 million downloads per year) and No Scripts (18 million downloads per year) add-ons for Firefox are so popular. This gives us control.

One note on this study is the fact that over 30% of the people surveyed think Managers at companies that get caught behavioral targeting without permission should go to jail. I myself take this all seriously. I have a Student Pact on my website for my Skrib Sheetz! service letting college students, who my service targets, that not only will none of their information be sold or given out, but that if they participate in the Mobile Marketing feature I won't give my clients their phone numbers for future contact.

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