disclosure: this post was written with the help of external contributors under the supervision of Edwige Cottigny and the Orange Business Services Internet and Digital media team
Privacy and promotion in a social world
More than ever before, companies are turning to sites like Facebook and Twitter to connect with customers and others interested in their business. While social networking sites offer an invaluable opportunity to interact with customers, they can also expose users to significant privacy risks.
According to a recent Gartner report, "Major data spills become more likely as more data is stored online, as well as incremental data leakages that would enable data to be gathered and refined through data mining and inference algorithms."
It's clear that social networking services will continue to push the boundaries of privacy in the future. So what can be done?
In February 2009, a European Social Networking Task Force released a set of Safer Social Networking Principles that lays out procedures and policies (e.g., a "report abuse" button and default privacy settings) in an attempt to harmonise standards for social networking service providers that have a cross-border dimension. The principles were voluntarily adopted by a number of providers. Since then, an EU advisory body on data protection and privacy has followed up with approximately 20 of them regarding issues concerning privacy standards.
What your business can do
The whole point of social networking sites is to develop virtual communities where like-minded people can share and exchange information and stay in regular contact with each other. By participating in these new forms of media, businesses are exposing themselves to both risks and rewards.
Your company could choose to avoid social networking altogether. If you're not sharing information online, you don't have to worry about who has access to it, how it might be used, and where it might end up. The problem, of course, is that you're also missing out on a unique opportunity to connect with potential customers, partners, employees, etc.
As Justin Becker and Hao Chen of the University of California astutely point out, "Measuring privacy risk in online social networks is a challenging task. One of the fundamental difficulties is quantifying the amount of information revealed unintentionally." They've developed a tool called PrivAware that helps people and businesses detect and mitigate privacy risk. In addition, common sense goes a long way in helping to manage privacy risk.
The bottom line? Social networking sites are here to stay. Businesses should take full advantage of this new medium, while exercising available options in order to minimise security risks.
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Within the digital team of Orange Business Services, I lead content and special projects.