Facebook privacy vs publicity debate

Facebook is at the epicenter of issues surrounding “publicity vs privacy” as marketers seek to leverage the social web to engage existing and new consumers. This CNET article is a really good summary of issues swirling around the latest changes Facebook has made to its data sharing policies. Here are the salient take-aways:

  • Facebook marketing “partners” (e.g., shopping sites, news sites, etc) have seen huge jumps in referral traffic after implementing Facebook’s “social plug-ins”
  • Despite the success Facebook marketing partners may experience, security issues have emerged with the implementation of these social plug-ins
  • Facebook’s brand image is rising with adults 18-34 but dropping with adults 35+

Brands appear to┬ábenefit by tightly integrating Facebook into their customer outreach efforts. For example, this MediaWeek article (thanks @ReggieRPR for the heads-up) reports that Starbuck’s Facebook page is valued at $20 million. Nevertheless, the CNET article points out interesting issues that could impact Facebook’s marketer outreach efforts. The core of the issue is the inherent tension between publicity vs privacy; that is, just because someone makes something public does not mean they necessarily want it publicized. Danah Boyd in her keynote address at the 2010 SXSW Interactive made this latter point, as well as the following observations:

  • Technologists’ have a mantra that “privacy is dead”, but this is not true
  • People still care about privacy and the “public by default” “private through effort” dichotomy represents an inherent tension for individuals wanting to navigate online social worlds (Danah was referencing the fact that in many social networks users’ personally identifiable information and activities conducted through these social networks are rendered “public” by default and that users have to proactively change their privacy settings to make such information and activities less public or wholly private)
  • Marketers should remember that just because you can “see” someone does not mean they want to be “seen” by you
  • A Pew study showed that most adult social network users are privacy conscious (see related Pew study here showing that younger adults seem to be exerting even more control over their digital reputations)
  • Product developers need to think through publicity-vs-privacy-vs-control issues if they want to develop and launch successful products that tap the inherent benefits of the online social world

It will be interesting to see whether consumers will or will not readily use Facebook’s social plug-ins as privacy issues continue to gain mainstream media attention. What are your views?

Photo: alancleaver_2000

2 Comments

  1. Alex Cortez says:

    Well, having worked at various levels of the government (particularly in DoD-related matters), I have always been keen in keeping my privacy. However, as a consumer I don’t think it would dissuade me from enjoying a site that I like (but to keep in context, I have never liked Facebook and doubt that I ever will, so these changes/policies will not affect me directly… not yet). Good information, Eric.

  2. Eric Bryn says:

    Thanks for your comments, Alex.

Leave a Reply