Privacy arms race is hotting up

You cannot help to notice that privacy is fast becoming one of the hottest subjects in town. Driven, in part, by the social networking revolution every Tom, Dick and Harry are throwing great new applications at us such as Facebook, Gowalla, Google Me (?) with the aim of capturing a large slice of our social activity. All of these are freebies with no easy “pay” model and after Friends Reunited pissed away market leadership in the UK by charging a fiver a year no-one is keen to go straight to a charging model. The investors in these new applications will want to turn them into cash hoovers at some point so are trying all sorts of mechanisms and ideas out, mostly revolving around behavioural advertising.

The backlash has started, Mark Zuckerberg took a real kicking over changes to Facebook’s privacy policy and Google is making some major changes to it’s policy on October 3rd. We are also seeing an explosion in geo-location based applications (Gowalla, Foursquare, Facebook Place, Around me and Google Instant) so privacy concerns are now no longer just about personal data these guys hold about us – it’s now about these guys knowing where we are, who we are with and what we are doing. All this extra data greatly improves the quality of information held on regular people and, critically, adds the time/date dimension to the data held. In many ways, it’s a marketer’s dream and is propelling behavioural targeting and personalistion to the top of many company’s agendas’.

So where does that leave us? We can commit Facebook suicide and we can switch off GPS on our iPhones but surely that just leaves us out in the cold. We will need these tools and applications to be able to communicate with our friends and family in the near future. Some argue that this is a generational thing and will require the next generation to grow up into consumers before it really makes itself felt but that is plain bollocks. Many of the ideas may gain early adoption by the younger people but they soon teach their parents, mentors and anyone else who has a need to connect with the youth and once middle-aged groups of women are “checking in” at the WI using Gowalla then the game is well and truly up. As an aside did you know that 28% of Facebook’s users are older than 34, their fastest-growing demographic.

What about paying for privacy? How much would you pay to manage your privacy? I don’t mind seeing personalised adverts about, say, motorcycling or AC/DC or Apple products but I would love to have a central place to go that holds all this information so I can correct the errors and remove the rubbish I don’t want to see. And I would pay for it; digital identity management on a personal level.
Enhanced by Zemanta