Tommy Tutone – “Jenny (867-5309)” 

With apologies to the classic song shown above: “I got it, I got it! I got your number on the Facebook wall!”

News that Facebook will make user phone numbers and addresses available to external sites is generating an understandable and expected outcry. 

“The plan to open up users’ address and phone numbers to third-party sites and services marks the latest frontier in Facebook’s often controversy-fraught efforts to encourage users to be more liberal in sharing their data and online activity.” Via HuffPo 

Facebook’s continual nips and tucks to its privacy policy are accompanied by the usual reactive approach to user awareness. We’ve seen this play out more than a few times during the six year old site’s existence. It’s consistent if nothing else. 

Free Sites and User Entitlement
Users spending more time than they care to admit on sites like Facebook tend to develop a sense of entitlement. “I’m storing MY data on this site, Facebook owes ME.” And while I can understand this sentiment, I don’t agree with it. Facebook owns the site. Read their terms of service and learn what else they own. And with more than 600 million readers and display ad revenues that will eclipse Yahoo in the coming year, they’ve also got gravity. 

Consumers need to take greater personal accountability for their personal privacy. I say this as a fellow consumer and not a marketer. As a marketer, I see an opportunity that has NOTHING to do with the user data Facebook is making available.

Proactive Privacy: Marketers stand to earn a lot of consumer trust if they sound the alarm on these changes. Facebook is not doing it. Legal would plotz if they thought I was trying to make a brand accountable for Facebook with their customer base. I’m not saying they should and need to think through this point. But as marketers create in depth customer profiles that include social data, we should understand the implications Facebook creates and identify opportunities to help our customers do the same. 

What does privacy mean to YOUR consumer? This should guide your decisions on how much you should become involved in privacy issues and trends. At a minimum brands need to be aware of them. 

Personally, I’m wondering if I don’t have a startup opportunity here. Consider a company that can help consumers easily centralize and note the various data they’ve shared with sites and, more importantly alert them to changes in the terms of service for those sites. A Google search may show me it’s been done, but there’s some value to a company that can help consumers become aware of the byzantine morass of privacy details and their implications.

Cross-posted to my work blog.

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