Saturday, March 05, 2011

Privacy, Authenticity, Objectivity and Being "Real" Online...

Internet PrivacyImage by o5com via FlickrThe topic of online privacy has got a lot of attention in recent months and as a former community banker, the issue of privacy is something that I've always taken very seriously. Not only was I obligated as a banker from a regulatory and legal perspective to protect my customers' privacy, at a higher level it's just the "right thing" to do. We never sold our customer information to third parties for profit (unlike others), not because we didn't want the money, but because I believed doing so would be in direct violation of the trust they placed in me as their banker.

However, if you can voluntarily "give up" some of your information in exchange for a more customized and personalized online experience... would that be such a bad thing? It's already happening when you go on Facebook, as marketers can leverage the information YOU are providing. The ads that appear are not "coincidence", they are directly targeted at YOU based on information in your profile, what you're posting on your wall, who you are associated with, etc. While the companies behind the ads may not know my actual name, they do know that I...
  • Am a college graduate (a couple of times over) and hail from historic Marshall, MI
  • Love to bicycle and compete in triathlons
  • Am someone that is interested in online marketing and all things digital
  • Have two awesome golden retrievers
  • Enjoy public speaking and teaching others about social tech
So, when I'm on Facebook I see ads for things like bicycles, fitness supplements, online marketing information, etc. You get the picture. But I've decided to be authentic in my information (I'm not telling the world that I'm a rocket scientist or interested in climbing Mt. Everest - even if that may be more exciting), which means that information and marketing messages are relevant. There's an interesting cartoon (from The New Yorker) where you have two dogs sitting at a computer and the one at the keyboard says to the other, "On the Internet nobody knows you're a dog." While the lure of anonymity may have been initially attractive to some, I propose you really have to be genuine and real to get the most out of this new, online social world.

Most everything that I put out on the 'net is not filtered or directed to a particular group or segment of my social graph. I know in Facebook you can set up groups and segment friends that may be more "business" related so you can restrict what they can (and cannot see). I also have several platforms that I use, and each has a bit different feel (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, for example). But, in most cases what goes out, just goes out and I'm not really that concerned about who reads it. Like it or not, this is "Eric Cook" and sooner or later people will figure me out.

For example, if someone is a "cat person" and I'm a "dog person" and that's going to cause a problem down the road, isn't it best to know that sooner than later and we both can go on our merry way? Granted, that may be a bit extreme, but you get the idea. So, are you being as "real" as you can online, or are you holding something back? I'm interested in your thoughts...

~Eric


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