I hope that no Internet identity thieves read this blog because I guess I just made myself rather susceptible to all kinds of online risks. On any given weekend I will post pictures on Instagram of me in a ridiculously embarrassing costume, sign up for a sweepstakes that requires me to give my email address to a god-knows-who-they-are company, and store my bank account number in a mobile app without locking my phone. Perhaps this is all very naïve, I don’t know. The best ways to describe my attitude toward this very serious issue is at best, somewhat laissez-faire.
Earlier this month, I attended a half-day seminar called “Morning of Mobile Privacy” right here in Manhattan. The event set out to illuminate some of the core issues related to privacy on the Internet, and more specifically mobile Internet privacy. Speakers represented some of the major parties involved in the privacy discussion, including, brands, advertisers, advocates, consultants, legislators, and legal counsel.
The representatives from the agencies and brands shared some of the attitudes and strategies that they espouse when it comes to online privacy, such as the need to establish trust with your consumers in the early stages of the relationship and the necessity to identify the core needs for data collection, and not just doing it because everyone else does.
While the brand and agency insights were informative, it was Jules Polonetsky, Executive Director of the Future of Privacy Forum, former Chief Privacy Officer at AOL, and former commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs who set the tone for the day. He spoke of the relationship that many of us have with the Internet as one of friendship. This is not at all surprising, given that in The Truth About Connected You, we learned that about 30% of consumers around the categorize the relationship they have with their phones and tablets as one of friendship (and 18% would even go so far as to categorize it as ‘lovers!’).
The key takeaway for brands laid out by Polonetsky was that in order for there to be a positive relationship, the company that is accessing and storing user information from online activity, must provide some sort of utility to the consumer. The information could be used to suggest a gift for a parent or to inform your smartphone to direct you to the nearest public bathroom if you have a hyperactive bladder. As he summed up, addressing the audience as if he was speaking to each person individually, brands need to use this information to “be smart for you, not just smart about you.”
What resonated for me was that when it comes to the degree to which I share information about myself online, it’s not that I am totally naïve. In fact, I enjoy the benefit that providing information and sharing content from my life provides me, and that I simply have not been burned (yet, at least). So far I have only seen positives from my carefree method of Internet sharing. I still regard the Internet as a dependable and unwavering friend. And until I am let down, I will gladly let that Internet analyze the fact that I love watching Russian dash-cam videos and way-to-frequently Google random baseball players from the 1990s.
In 2014, Truth Central will refresh The Truth About Privacy, a study we first launched in 2011. For me, perhaps I will finally take the time to reconsider the reasons why I’m not very concerned with Internet privacy … but until then, I’ll be enjoying the spoils of my compulsive sharing.