Thursday, December 6, 2007

Facebook, Transmedia and the Value of "Free"

The following is not an unusual item in the net news. Large company (Amazon, Microsoft, Big Financial Institution, etc.) collects or mishandles personal data (tracking, hidden feature, loss of data, etc.) and we are reminded that our personal data is something we need to be vigilant in protecting.

This time around it is Facebook, which today apologized to users and introduced a new policy regarding its controversial "Beacon" feature. The invasive advertising approach that Beacon undertook resulted in personal user data being shared with others. Not just the advertisers but also the user's "friends".

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg explained ....

When we first thought of Beacon, our goal was to build a simple product to let people share information across sites with their friends. It had to be lightweight so it wouldn't get in people's way as they browsed the web, but also clear enough so people would be able to easily control what they shared.

and apologized ...
We've made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we've made even more with how we've handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it.

on his blog.

When I was poking around the subject and noodling over why we seem to revisit this scenario, I came across a well written explanation as to why this is a common offense. It is a natural consequence of getting the most value out of what we are told is free, our personal information and tastes.

The following excerpts are from a PR Newswire release from TransMedia.

"The stated goal of many leading web services is to accumulate the most comprehensive database of information about you in order to target far more personalized advertisements at you that would command higher rates from advertisers."

"Many consumers spend hours everyday entering personal data into web services at home and at work and most have no idea how their personal information makes money for online services," said TransMedia Chairman and CEO, Donald Leka. "The online advertising business model is being taken to new extremes and the right to privacy lies in the balance."

"The advertising business model has also resulted in product innovation taking a back seat to the holy grail of building the perfect advertising platform focused almost exclusively on better ways to target advertising at consumers. Glide is free of advertising and designed to promote your right to privacy. Our mission is to serve you with a rapid and continuous stream of useful and fun innovative products," said Mr. Leka.

Then the release goes on to talk about Glide and the companies proposed Online Bill of Rights. I find the website for TransMedia and Glide to be a discussion in itself, and will save that for the next post.

In the meantime, Steven Burke of CMP Channel has offered up Five Lessons for VARS From the Facebook Fiasco.


Anonymous said...

Interesting post.

Anonymous said...

Thought provoking.

Hopefully you have seen the press release from the EDB about Infoblox renewing its lease in Tacoma for another six years. Growing from sixty...