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December 03, 2007

Orion Panel: Search, Privacy, and Community in the Digital Age: SES Chicago 07

By Brian Cosgrove

Orion Panel: Search, Privacy, and Community in the Digital Age

  • Alan Chapell of Chapell & Associates
  • Jack Myers of JackMyers.com (formerly mediaVillage.com)
  • Pauline Ores of IBM

Moderators are:

  • Kevin Ryan and Kevin Heisler of Search Engine Watch. 

The presentation begins with a video showing clips from South Park, Knocked Up, Transformers, and other popular media that reference Google, Facebook, Myspace, and other sites where information about individuals may easily be collected. The idea is that quite a bit of private information is available about nearly anyone on the web and it can and is used by Government and other interested parties.

Alan, who was introduced as a privacy advocate, mentions that there aren’t enough permission levels/settings in social networks. If you could set different boundaries for the diverse types of relationships that people have on the web, than better management of personal information could be maintained. My first thought on this is that it sounds good in theory but there is a certain point at which it becomes more work to create/manage each segment’s permissions and it might become a situation where acquaintances may feel slighted if they’re in a more restricted segment. 

Jack Myers mentions that people over 40 use facebook and social networks for business relationship management while the younger generations, such as his son, use the service primarily for social relationships and may be adverse to mixing the two purposes.

Kevin Ryan claims that people are inundated with too much information from contacts that may or may not be relevant. 

Jack Myers describes how some people use facebook for friends of friends to build out a network while others use it for only those people they know.

On the topic of privacy, Alan mentions that he doesn’t post anything on facebook that isn’t already out there somewhere. He says that we’re past the point of keeping the information from getting out there.  

People use Google search, Facebook, and other sites to get information about people. One can only hope that people look at this information in its totality so that they don’t form an opinion on the outliers.

Jack Myers talks about the “Under 15” generation using sites like Gaia, ClubPenguins, and Neopets to experience a new world of interconnection. He goes on to state that this is part of an evolution where people experience being connected with others at an early age. 

Someone mentions that certain types of information such as search history should be kept private because it reflects too deep into the human psyche to be shared with others.

Alan states that a certain amount of savvy will emerge for people to protect their private information. 

Jack asks, can’t you just delete your cookies and cache to hide that information?

I’d like to add my own thought that IP/User agent tracking can still be implemented and certain actions such as authenticated logins can be used to merge disconnected sessions/user information. If cell phones usage is traced to phone-number that’s almost as good as an authenticated login but it could also be linked to GPS data, voice/call data, and other personal information as well.

Alan counters Jacks idea by stating that if he deletes his cookies, he’ll lose a certain amount of contextual advertising. 

Kevin Ryan asks at what point will the bulk of the population know the difference between a good and a bad cookie?

Jack Myers mentions that consumer information in the contextual/behavioral marketplace will become part of the digital TV experience. They’ll need to deliver on the promise of more relevant ads to provide value. I assume that this means that these better ads will offset the privacy concerns that my cable company is recording my TV viewing history and using it for their personal gain. Jack mentions that these personalized benefits need to spread out to other channels. 

Pauline states that marketing activities have goals and Social Media needs to do more than SEO to build better business/consumer relationships. The information really needs to be better and contextual.

Kevin Ryan brings up internet Darwinism. The idea that the privacy issues and concerns will sort themselves (as the smarter folks will make better decisions about protecting their data).

Pauline counters that it won’t sort it self out. Social media creates a whole different type of relationship where the consumers aren’t just toddlers. 

Kevin Heisler asks how many people would stop using Facebook if they started getting more ads (few hands).

Kevin Ryan ads that facebook is incorporating advertising messages into feeds of information that people are sharing with each other. 

The next show of hands, How many people have clicked on a Facebook ad (very few hands).

Jack Myers mentions that you may not consider a group or some other types of marketing/brand efforts to be an ad. 

Pauline mentions that teenagers giggle when companies like Coca Cola have a page on a social media site because it’s so silly.

Jack counters, What if they offered free music downloads? 

Pauline states that they could do that anyway in other channels. 

The topic of linked in comes up (almost everyone in the room has a linked in profile) and he mentions how it has far less personal interaction. More people have linked in profiles and it’s a more proactive approach to better one’s own purposes. Facebook is more of a social community that is part of a day-to-day business relationship

Kevin Ryan mentions that people cite things that can only be found on his facebook page. He then goes on to talk about some of the interactions on these sites and asks if they’re nothing more than a time waster. 

Pauline mentions something about giving someone control of their own listing in her address book. She states that many facebook widgets are useful and not just time wasters.

Question from the audience: Do consumers realize that they have no rights to privacy to corporations but they do have rights from the government. 

Alan answers that there is an inherent fear of the government having information on you. He reminds the audience of the FBI tracking Martin Luther King Jr. and other government abuses of power. He also mentions that government has circumvented many restrictions by simply buying the information from corporations who can legally collect and sell it.

Alan states that you should let your child surf wherever they want without supervision. 

Regarding Mobile, at social applications the tipping point?

Jack mentions that Asia and Europe as examples of successful mobile environments full of social interaction. He states that American companies need to open up their closed wall environments to provide better revenue streams to companies.

Alan agrees stating that they’re hastening their demise by the closed wall approach.

Alan mentions that as Google Android comes online, you’ll have less privacy.

Pauline mentions that GPS information can be married with everything you do on the web via your cell phone.  

Jack explains an example of how some companies use cell phones. One example was a company that would text shipping information.

On the topic of text messaging, teens are using text messages on a regular basis while 35+ are using email much more often. There was some talk that this may have something to do with the complexity of the messages being transmitted. 

On the topic of privacy, it was said that you should put anything in email or text messages that you wouldn’t feel comfortable reading to your mother or a judge in court.  That is, these are not secure channels.

Regarding contextual advertising, some industries such as pharma, race/religion, need to be more careful because that sort of targeting could creep people out.

The last thing that was reiterated was that there is a need for multiple levels of permissions and that it’s very difficult to maintain so many profiles so there is likely some out-of-date information that needs to be addressed.

That was what I was able to record from this session. The session was fragmented and jumped topics but I think there were some good points/ideas presented that are useful to consider.  I've presented the facts and attributed the right people as best I recorded them.  Please feel free to leave any corrections or additions that you may have.

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