By Paul Hudson
EU policymakers recently indicated their desire to force companies like Facebook and Google to seek permission to use our personal data, as reported recently in The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/jan/09/facebook-google-use-personal-data-eu
Our research has for a long time shown that consumers are currently not aware of how businesses use their data online and that the majority of teens view social media as a ‘social space’ and not a business one. Therefore businesses should enter this space with care – for fear of gatecrashing the party.
Anecdotal evidence is that businesses haven’t always entered with due care and attention and that, in fact, the leading players, like Facebook and Google have sometimes been the worst at pushing privacy issues to the side as they try to monetise the data they hold. It is said to be in the interests of giving consumers greater convenience and better products.
This week we released some new data from our Digital Future project (examining under 18s use of digital media) showing an increasing trend towards giving false information online which demonstrates their increasing desire to remain anonymous from businesses.
Where businesses do not accurately reflect their consumers’ needs, policymakers and law sometimes needs to. The article from The Guardian shows that policymakers are beginning to think there is a need for them to step in. This tension over personal data should not be a surprise. It has become an increasing issue across the whole of business – with IT compliance, payment systems and provision of customer lists to third parties like research agencies. Why should social media be any different? In all other aspects of consumer data, companies have to ask for permission and ‘be clear how the data will be used’ and ‘who it will be used by’.
On the social media side, it is argued that ‘the data is in the public domain, put there by the consumer’. True. But do they have all the facts as to how the data they put there is being used? Is it reasonable to expect the person in the street to understand how data is recorded and used?
The debate will run for a long time to come. I believe the businesses that will win in the long term are those that embrace transparency and involve the consumer honestly in how their data is used.
What do you think?
Has the ‘soft underbelly’ of social media monitoring been found? At the end of 2010, I heard Andrew Keen, from Silicon Valley, speak about the risk that the future of social media monitoring would be undermined when the consumer realised how their data was being used (The full video is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAf__0k0l-c)