Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Privacy vs Popularity

Remember in high school when we would flip if one of the popular kids would talk to us?

I have always been blessed by a lot of friends, but by no means would I say I was part of the popular group.

A few days ago I had a conversation with a man who mentioned (in so many words) not feeling popular or included. Maybe a better way to put it would be that he and his wife are feeling left out. I always find it interesting when grownups say things like that. It is so different than hearing someone younger (than say 18) say it. When you're a grownup you can have your own dinner parties and invite anyone you want. You can even go out and meet brand new people, different than any other person you have ever met before. Then you can feel popular and included...or maybe that's the problem!

What's the issue? Being popular isn't a crime. Or is it? The Internet makes it easy for a little known typist to gain worldwide recognition (at least if they know what they're talking about.) If you want you can tell everyone...what you're thinking, where you are, post pictures of your latest hair-cut, party, boy-toy, BFF, videos of your latest argument, lip-sync, dance routine or whatever you want! Aside from the few illegal restrictions you can pretty much do whatever you want to.

What's the big deal, right?

Well Friday of last week I was listening to Market Place on NPR when the segment "What were you thinking?" came on the air. I think this topic is important enough that, although lengthy, I have to share at least part of the written story:

Why we give up our privacy so easily

There was an uproar when Facebook fiddled with its privacy settings -- but really, people willingly give up their privacy all the time for perks like coupons and discounts.

Used to be most coupons came in the mail or in the Sunday paper. But now it is far more common that they come with a click. Online marketers are practically throwing discounts at potential customers. But there is a price. In return, they expect you to hand over all kinds of personal information and you do. Which prompts us to ask:
Jay Leno: Let me start with question number one: What the hell were you thinking?

So how much privacy would you give up for 25 percent off a great new pair of shoes or maybe a free magazine subscription?

Reporter Sally Herships looks at the trade-offs.

Sally Herships: Shea Sylvia is 29. She works in online marketing in Kansas City. She's a blogger and a Foursquare user. In case you're not familiar with it, Foursquare is a mobile app that lets you track your location. You "check in" and your friends know where you are. Some businesses offer coupons if you "check in" at their venue.

A couple of months ago, Sylvia was meeting some friends she'd met through her blog at a restaurant. When she arrived, she checked in on Foursquare. She also posted her location on Twitter.

Shea Sylvia: A few minutes later, the hostess came over to my table and asked if anybody there was named Shea Sylvia.

There was a phone call for her, which Sylvia says she thought was odd. Because after all, she has a cell phone. The guy on the phone said his name was Brian.

Sylvia: And I don't know anybody named Brian. So I kept saying "Who, who?" And he said, "I understand you're meeting people from the Internet, well, maybe you and I can hang out sometime. Maybe we could even go for a bike ride." And then he said, "Is this getting a little creepy?" And it was, so I said yes. And he said, "Maybe you shouldn't check in on Foursquare, then should you, Shea?"

Sylvia asked the hostess how she knew to pick her out of the crowd. Turns out "Brian" had described her. Short hair, glasses, just like what Sylvia's avatars on Foursquare and Twitter look like. I asked her: Why make her location public?

Sylvia: Yeah, what was I thinking?

Sylvia said she felt safe. She was in public, sharing information with friends. She didn't think about the strangers on Twitter and Foursquare who could also see her posts.

There are millions of Sylvias out there, giving away their private information for social reasons. More and more, they're also trading it in for financial benefits, like coupons and discounts. Social shopping websites like Blippy and Swipely let shoppers post about what they buy. But first they turn over the logins to their e-mail accounts or their credit card numbers, so their purchases can be tracked online.

Being a marketing/advertising minded person I have the urge put myself out there. I don't know that this article lessened that urge, but it has caused me to be much more aware. I think most of us believe we are "safe" because of this or that, but I'm pretty sure we can't feel like that anymore.

Read the entire Market Place/What were you thinking? article HERE.

I'm serious.
Go read it now.


Lori said...

oo very good post! I read some more of the full article and the thing about blippy reminded me of a book I read called "Feed" (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Feed/M-T-Anderson/e/9780763622596/?itm=1&USRI=feed) where they have these little computers in their brain and part of what they do is track/determine/suggest spending habits, and its kinda insane how much it controls their lives.

MonikaC said...

I heard that same story on NPR! I was totally freaked out about it, since I'm already a little paranoid! If only people with children would read this and stop posting so much info about the kids...