Protecting Your Brand from the Privacy Backlash

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Thanks to the volleying efforts of Facebook and Google to take over the world, we’re in a bit of a privacy crisis right now. So how can you protect your brand? As consumers seek privacy, and brand recognition is becoming more associated with the proper use of consumer data, it’s important to consider how you can organize your efforts around the changing perspectives.

The cause and effect

Facebook’s rapid growth has enabled the company to roll out several changes to the core structure of its social network, making information more accessible to the public and more difficult for users to modify their privacy settings. Google is facing legal measures from German officials that are seeking the server on which the company was storing unauthorized consumer data, collected during one of its Street Views initiatives.

The result has been a media frenzy, discussing the growing disregard of consumer interests in the name of free web services. As Google and Facebook shift their efforts beyond the web, privacy group advocates, special interests groups and regulators continue to scrutinize the motifs and actions of each corporate entity.

As I’ve conjectured, there is a backlash under way, with Google and Facebook pushing some of their own initiatives onto consumers too quickly for their liking. It raises questions about the direction of each company, and threatens to make consumer data more vulnerable than ever before. This will continue to lead to more development of services and systems that overlap Facebook and Google with their own privacy measures, in some ways taking advantage of a new need.

From a marketing standpoint

For brands, the privacy backlash doesn’t have to mean user distrust and a retreat from web-based activity. It means that those brands that can find a way to hedge their bets against any privacy backlash can be more successful. This is because they’ll have found a better way in which to communicate with consumers, leveraging trust and service as their primary points of attraction.

As Facebook’s instant personalization and Connect initiatives take the social experience outside the actual network, the activity around our consumer lives also become more social. A similar evolution is taking place with Google TV, as it looks to reorganize the on-demand media experience to be more tailored and interactive. This includes a move into the social realm, meaning there’s an eventual and large overlap between what Facebook and Google are doing.

Making your brand a uniting factor of sorts increases the potential for long-term brand recognition, and enables you to build on that cross-network association. Several companies did this successfully after the initial bubble burst, when it was thought far less safe to share consumer data via the web. Google was one of those companies that restructured itself according to the needs of consumers, and ended up affecting what web privacy really means.

Considering these factors means you’ve looked to the past, present and future of consumer privacy needs. Recognizing the patterns of consumer and corporate behavior will help you to avoid backlash of your own, later on down the line. Technology brings about opportunity for any industry, and every applied frontier means a new implementation of privacy regulations.

We’ve gone from the bubble burst to web 2.0, and right on into the mobile realm. How can you structure your initiatives accordingly?

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Comments

  1. says

    I agree. Transparency helps a great deal, and presents the current standard web practices as ones that respect the consumer’s privacy. Well put, Derek.

  2. says

    I think that any company that wishes more consumer interaction has to be very transparent about the way they use the data, and be willing to respond quickly to any claims about privacy breaches. For instance, with Facebook, it’s not clear to new users how much of their info will be publicly available, and for long-time users, it took some digging to find out how to change their current settings to ones we are comfortable with. And because people use these services for different purposes, what’s right for some is not right for others. In my mind, I think it might be best to have all default settings for new users set to ‘private’ and have them opt-in to sharing their data.

    Having said that, I’m curious to know if there’s a ‘best practices’ guide for privacy in web services.

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