Friday, May 8, 2009

Dude, where's my Privacy-The Privacy Conundrum in Social Networks

I will be speaking next week at the Informa Mobile Location Services 09 Conference in London and one of the key subjects I was asked to present on was privacy.

One of the key issues has to do with semantics:what do we mean by privacy exactly? How private is private? My argument is that the privacy sphere, like it or not, is getting smaller and smaller for most people. Over time, the level of intrusion that each person is willing to accept in their 'private' sphere is also increasing.

I like to point to the example of Google Street View, as this is a full on example of a significant intrusion into everyone's private sphere which was accepted and ultimately embraced (I recommend you see also the example of the Japanese mashup of a Virtual Jog using Street View).

The other key issue is that legislation is dictating the approach that mobile social networks that use location should use. This is the key concept of 'opt-in', such that it is always down to consumer choice whether or not anyone has access to the location of a mobile subscriber.

This is fine as a preventive measure to assuage the public's fear of location based services in the interim period during which the key players (like Google) educate and inform about the benefits of location based services.

But ultimately, it is not the way in which 'push' services, somewhat of a marketing mecca in terms of delivering the right marketing message to the right customer in the right place, will be achieved.