Data Hoarders Threaten Privacy: Why People View Facebook as a Threat, but Not Amazon
The fact is big business is collecting a ton of data on us. It’s also a well-known rumor (or fact) that the US government is at the top of the list when it comes to watching our every move online. Social networking, however, often has the worst reputation when it comes to privacy. Why? Much if has to do not so much with the data collected as the way that is it being used.
Surveys have revealed which companies are viewed as the largest threats to privacy. Facebook and Twitter, two of the biggest social networking sites, seem to always be high on the list. Additionally, while Google (perhaps the largest data collector of them all) has only seen people grow in concern over their data collection in the past two years, those concerns have nearly doubled recently.
Big companies like Google and Facebook seem to collect data just for the sake of having it all. Amazon has a specific purpose: They want to sell us stuff. Internet-dependent companies that collect data with no apparent purpose can drum some scary ideas into people’s heads and have us wondering what they’re doing with all that information. With Amazon, we associate data collection with recommended products and targeted emails. That’s actually a convenience.
The trend is understandable. People have no problem giving up their personal data if they know why you want it. We trust Amazon. They’re a business with a great reputation. We don’t worry about personal information being sold to the highest bidder, relinquished to the government, or locked away forever for some secret future plan. Amazon just wants our money, and they are nice enough to use personal data they collect on us to recommend what we should give it to them for.
So if you want to collect data, make the purpose clear. Don’t be ambiguous about hanging on to it for some unexplained reason that might involve future sales to third parties, anti-terrorism intel collection, or just a belief that the company with the most data wins. Data hoarders threaten privacy. Consumers want transparency, and they want tangible returns on the data that gets collected on them.
The public is in an uproar over privacy. Are there things that we do as companies to exacerbate the situation? Here are a few things to consider.
The cover-up: this may be what consumers hate the most. The fact is that all companies make mistakes. Inevitably, some private data will leak out due to a new hack or cyber-attack. It may be revealed that the NSA has been intercepting data you have collected. Whatever it is that has your customers upset, just say you’re sorry. No one wants to hear, “we didn’t know,” or, “there’s no way we could have prevented…” No one cares about the excuses. Just apologize and move on. And if you make a major privacy error in judgment (remember the scandal with Instagram when the policy changed last year?), don’t be afraid to tell consumers they were right to be upset. Then change your policy back to one that is less controversial. Better, of course, would be to not adopt controversial policies in the first place.