Digital Privacy Twister
Yes, Twister. The fun, bright colored game where you get twisted up with all your friends and would-be teenage loves. Actually, the rules of Twister are more clear than the twisted Privacy policies that dot the Web these days – which in my opinion, are less about privacy and more about making money. The only choice I typically get is no privacy or don’t use my Web service.
It is impossible to ignore the increase in coverage regarding digital data privacy. Today’s Wall Street Journal headline about Google bypassing iPhone Privacy Settings may just be the fateful move that brings everyone playing Digital Privacy Twister crashing down to the mat.
But before jumping to any “Google is the new Evil Empire” conclusions, have a look at this hurried, yet thoughtful post by Technology Media blogger, John Battelle, A Sad State of Internet Affairs: The Journal of Google, Apple and “Privacy”. Battelle, rightfully questions whether or not the default “privacy settings” in iOS are designed to protect yours and my privacy rights or protect Apple’s advertising revenues.
Sadly, the rules about Internet Privacy are simply not clear and even those being debated and proposed by the best minds in the space have to consider the impact changes will have on established business models and legitimate uses for data sharing between organizations. Privacy is about balancing the rights of you and me, as citizens (not just consumers) and a business’s right to make money. If you mandate technology changes to stop privacy abuses, then how that impacts legitimate data use and sharing MUST be considered or you start ripping apart the very fabric of the Web – the mat holding all the brightly colored website dots together.
Maybe we are too smart for or own good. I bet if you asked your children, they would say something wonderfully simple like, “Just ask me my permission.” or, “I’ll tell you if I trust you.” Or perhaps, “Your a stranger. Until I know you better I won’t tell you my name or where I live.” Instead of trying to re-weave the Web and break what works, why not just ask the user. Give them the Choice to share or not to share with any given site. Give them a Choice about what to share – location, but not name. Device information, but not cell phone number. Privacy is not binary. Privacy cannot be “solved.” Privacy is a right. Ask permission (in a simple, straightforward manner) and then respect it. Period.
Digital Privacy should be about delivering the appropriate Web Experience base on what is shared, not taken. An anonymous experience or a rich experience, or something in between. It should be MY choice and should not be all or nothing. People like choice. When you deny that choice based upon less than transparent practices and policies, people get really angry. Angry people stop doing business with you and tell all their friends.