Internet privacy is a slippery slope. Despite our perception of a borderless web, legislation varies for each country. As Google, Microsoft, Facebook and others push the web to become more social, users’ privacy control wanes. And privacy is absolutely not dead. Privacy is now a method to create and manage your identity, explains my coworker Bud Caddell. 2010 is the year people share more, 2011 will be the year people regret their exhibitionism.
I am more concerned about our youth than adult users when it comes to privacy. Adults need to take personal responsibility and understand that if Facebook hints at changes in users’ privacy settings, then they must take action. I don’t expect my 10-year-old cousin on Facebook to understand this – and yes, despite Facebook’s 13-year-old age limit, he and several of his underage friends peruse the network each day. You can argue that parents are responsible for keeping their children away from the social web, but we all know that’s an unfair expectation.
Web giants need to start mimicking older media predecessors’ social responsibility. In 2007, Nickelodeon began prohibiting use of its characters on junk food products. Characters can only be licensed to “better for you” products that were determined by Nick’s marketing department and food advocacy groups. Comparatively, the Google Dashboard is a poor man’s excuse to bring privacy controls to the masses, let alone youngsters.
Some web applications are ahead of the curve. The mobile app Citysense grants users ownership over historical data. The app includes buttons to “delete any data acquired in the last 24 hours” and to “delete all historical data.” This is brilliant. This will be the future. More historical data may make an application smarter (what up, algorithm) and more appealing to marketers (what up, CRM), but users’ distrust will be on the rise as they start to see their digital thumbprints all over search engines and declined university and job applications. Platforms that exercise transparent user data management will soon be perceived as more innovative than those that do not.