When Caring Becomes Creepy: The Push for Online Privacy

Privacy on the Web

You log on to your Facebook account and go about your usual social media routine. You check your News Feed, comment on a few statuses, like a funny video and upload some photos from the weekend. Many people consider their social media profiles to be secure and private, but even individuals with the strictest privacy settings may be surprised at the amount of personal information certain online entities like Facebook and Google collect and store…forever.

Online privacy and security has always been and continues to be big concern to the public. As more and more websites, profiles and data continues to pop up on the web, some important questions arise. Who owns the data and information on your social network profile – you or the site? What sort of information about us do online entities collect and potentially sell? How can we go about ensuring that our personal information is safe and truly “ours?”

So, how does the general public feel about all of these companies that have access to their personal information online? According to Forrester Research, 1 in 3 consumers said that they are concerned about companies having access to their behavioral data. More than 40 percent said they had stopped short of completing a transaction on a website because of something they read in a privacy policy.

Online Privacy Stats

Overall, online privacy is an important issue in the public mind

The Sad State Of Social Media

The Sad State Of Social Media Privacy

For me personally, I’ve never been too skeptical about the safety and security of my information on the Internet. While I’m certainly wary when it comes to online purchases that requires any sort of credit information, I have no problem when I create new profiles or accounts with social network sites and apps. In my opinion, if you want your information to be completely secure or view-able only by a select few, then the Internet is probably not the best place to go about publishing said information. However, my views do not at all reflect the general public’s attitude toward online privacy.

Here are three areas of online privacy systems that I think need improvement:

1. Transparency

Companies need to make their privacy policies very clear to consumers. There should be no fine print. When I sign up for a new online service, I want to be perfectly clear about what, if any, information a particular entity will collect about me. I also want to know if that entity will sell any information about myself to other companies. Another big issue deals with what will happen to my data and content if I leave the service or delete my account. I think a good practice is for companies to give customers the option to have all stored data and content deleted from the site if the customer chooses to delete their account.

2. Summation

This sort of falls under transparency as well, but companies need to be succinct when they present new customers with their privacy policies. Most of us are not lawyers and we do not want to sift through a 20-page terms of agreement document. My guess is that .01 percent of the population actually reads through the terms of agreement when they sign up or join a new online service. Instead, companies should provide their customers with a shorter, bulleted version which outlines the basics about the customer’s privacy rights and company policies for dealing with customer data. I think that videos will increasingly play an important role in explaining new services and policies to customers during the signup or renewal phase of an online service.

3. Consent

Opt-In Strategy

I cannot stress enough how much companies need to employ an opt-in consent strategy. I immediately think negatively of any service I sign up for that begins emailing me offers multiple times a day – especially if said service never presented me with a visible opt-in or opt-out option. Even if an opt-out strategy will get you a larger email list with a potentially higher open-rate, what’s the point of wasting your resources and time sending out email blasts to customers who don’t want them in the first place? Instead, hone your resources in on the segment of customers who actually wish to be emailed regularly with offers and you’ll see the same return, if not higher, provided by an opt-out strategy.

The following video, courtesy of FW:Thinking, proposes an interesting future for internet privacy.

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