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Social Privacy Issues Have Major Marketing Implications

It seems that every day over the past week there’s a new story regarding privacy and transparency concerns in the social space. For example:

We continue to see user anxiety about privacy issues that Facebook Timeline will create.

Social network Path outraged users by accidentally posting its users’ address books publicly.

Google continues to frustrate users with its privacy policy change and its focus on increased personalization of search.

Pinterest, the hottest topic in the social sphere at the moment, is causing a bit of controversy over the fact it’s monetizing pins without disclosing that info to users.

And now, Google looks to be offering beta testers the opportunity to trade in their browsing privacy for 25 whole dollars. What a deal!?!

Unfortunately, despite protests from many about these privacy and transparency practices, most of the aforementioned sites are so ingrained in our personal routines that we won’t stop using them. Can you imagine a day without Googling? I didn’t think so.

And that really means the envelope will only be pushed further until legal boundaries are encroached.

What does this mean for you as a marketer? Well, in  some ways, the disregard for user privacy is a good thing for you. The more data that is collected, the more robust profiling that can be done by ad networks, and in theory the better you can target potential customers.

On the other hand, if the envelope continues to be pushed, and at some point there is government intervention, that could set tracking, targeting, and reporting efforts back considerably. For instance, in the UK, recent legislation states that by May 25th, all sites must offer their users the opportunity to opt-in, not out, of cookie acceptance. And without those cookies, a tremendous amount of ad targeting and site analytics data will be lost. The consequences for marketers will be fascinating to monitor.

Perhaps the best case scenario is that some of these offending sites will at some point see a loss in traffic that will force them to reconsider their stance on privacy issues. With better self-regulation, government intervention, and potentially serious consequences that come with it, could be avoided for marketers.

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