Online privacy is an ever-present issue; there is a regular stream of stories in the press about companies violating or mismanaging their users’ privacy, from Path to Facebook to laptops left on trains. People know that privacy is an issue but do they care where their personal data is being used?
Sharing your information is a natural thing to do, and certainly nothing new, but we have become comfortable with sharing more of our information than ever before and to a wider group of people. From the banal “I’m making a(nother) jam sandwich” to life-changing events. Social networks are often at the forefront of pushing the boundaries with each update encouraging users to share slightly more to a wider circle of people. This often feels like a natural step for the majority of people, there is a new peer pressure for people who don’t share and can be seen as not taking part. The power and positioning of the brands involved has a lot to do with this, as relative newcomers, social networks often position themselves as a friendly service that are here to make your life easier. They are the underdogs to the stuffy established corporations and people are excited to join in. People using the service trust the brand and often view their conversations as being just between their friends. However this is often not the case with third party apps and it is important to read the terms to understand, but let’s face it: who reads those when you’re in a rush to start a new miniature farm or see how many more of the top 100 films of all time you’ve seen than your friends? This is just one example where your personal data has become a currency and a little bit of privacy is the price you pay. The recent EU cookie laws were a clumsy attempt to force all companies to become more transparent about their use of data, and to some extent it’s worked, but I wonder how many people outside of the digital industry really took notice? To paraphrase Seth Godin, the surprises will keep on coming “but privacy? Too late to worry about that”.