The Fine Yet Blurred Line Between Personalization and Privacy

January 18, 2017

By Assaf Dudai

In June, Fusion broke a story about Facebook using (and denying, and then reversing its own statement) the location-tracking in its users’ phones for friend suggestions. After you had been in close proximity to another Facebook user who wasn’t your Facebook friend, Facebook would suggest both of you to connect, whether it was a childhood friend you haven’t met in years or a weirdo staring at you on the train.

As privacy-related stories go, it caused quite a ruckus online. Re-connecting with a childhood friend can be nice. Your name and other identifying details delivered to strangers who might be psychos is less nice.  It also raised the question, once again, of where to draw the line. When does personalization cannibalize privacy?

Privacy is a touchy point these days. It makes folks jumpy and itchy all over, especially when multi-billion corporations shrug it off nonchalantly. More recently, it was Uber’s turn to be like, “What? Totally innocent, no monkey business here, dudes,” after it changed its tracking policy to extend its location-tracking to five minutes after the passenger was dropped off. Privacy watchdogs like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) vented their frustration with unnecessary data collection, while Uber claimed to be doing it for the sake of better service.

Who’s right? It doesn’t matter. Let’s agree that both sides were right: the EFF was right to be concerned, and Uber had a right to aspire to improve its service. But these things happen all the time: the pangs of struggle between the opposing forces of privacy.

Are we to assume that all companies (secretly) advocate for a total shattering of online privacy? I’m not sure, and again, it doesn’t matter. Coca-Cola can aspire that I will choose Coke 100% of the times I buy a beverage. That doesn’t mean it will happen.

Locking Horns

The Uber story illustrates the growing tensions between the privacy concerns (of people) and the desire to improve services (of companies). There is no doubt that familiarity improves interaction; I enjoy the sense of comradeship at my local bar, the grocery store closest to my apartment, my favorite wine shop…did I just give two alcohol-related examples out of three?

Where privacy is going to lock horns with marketing, is over personalization.

Personalization is evolving. It’s getting more nuanced and precise, its goals are getting more ambitious. The way to finetune personalization is by getting more personal information about our audience, and here we are tiptoeing around the fine line that crisscrosses privacy and personalization.

But let’s roll back for a sec to make sure we are in sync about what personalization is all about.

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Source:: Social Media Explorer