Friday, October 1, 2010

I know I've written this post before

Here's the wired headline: Scribd Facebook Instant Personalization Is a Privacy Nightmare. The article is about what you'd expect. There are complaints about automatically generated spam emails to your automatically created friends and confusing or non-existent opportunities to opt out. There's a Scribd PR person explaining how privacy is really very important to the company. There's the author suggesting that one way to fix the problem is to delete your Scribd profile, but characterizing that as extreme. I'm not 100% sure why I read the article. True, I don't use Scribd, and have never run across this particular feature. However, just seeing Facebook in the title gave me a pretty good idea what to expect. Someone in marketing wants to take advantage of the tremendous amount of data on Facebook (and get in on the whole "social media" bandwagon) and so they make it really easy to share data, and relatively difficult not to so do.

So what should people do instead of this? Well, there's always the possibility of not integrating with Facebook. Frankly, regardless of what they've been forced to do by public pressure, I will always distrust a company who's CEO famously doesn't believe in privacy. In the event that you must integrate with Facebook, you could always try little things like opt in rather than opt out participation, not automatically spamming Facebook friends, and sending making sure it's clear for someone how to opt out if they decide they don't like the program. There are also guidelines for interactive and behavioral advertising put out by organizations like the FTC and the IAB (though I consider those to be a bit outside the scope of this post). Whatever you do though, if you're going to move into the world of social media, you need to do it with your eyes open, or your company is likely to be integrated with Facebook in a headline that also includes unpleasant words like "nightmare" or "disaster."

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