Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Does privacy still exist?

Although the recent Facebook privacy issues generated quite a buzz, the growth of social media and popularity of GPS gadgets are pushing the boundaries of our privacy. I was initially very skeptical about Foursquare, but it apparently has 1.6 million members now, who voluntarily post their whereabouts. Given that so many of us now have cell phones with built-in GPS, it is difficult for marketers and advertisers to ignore these new opportunities.

Obviously, there is a fine line between leveraging location-based data and invading privacy - even though marketers insist they still need your permission to access personal information. The growing popularity of social media and smartphone applications that ask for your location does not seem to have raised much concern for the average user of social media. In fact, despite recent privacy issues, Facebook has only lost around 30,000 users

According to a recent article from The Wall Street Journal, companies do not always disclose what they do with consumers' personal data once they have access to it, and the majority of location-based applications lack privacy policies. As more consumers are willing to share their personal information down to their whereabouts, it creates serious issues and questions. As consumers become transparent in today's "privacy-less" world, marketers also need to become transparent when it comes to collecting and using such information. Thankfully, the VC investment in privacy-related start-ups has increased, which makes me optimistic about confidentiality boundaries in the future. In the meantime, I am seriously considering joining Foresquare.

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