Pay Attention to Privacy vs Convenience. It’s Important.

There is a lot of information about me out on the Internet.  My nameWhere I work.  What bands I likeWhat TV shows I watch.  Heck, even my shoe size is now out there in the public domain.  In addition to this explicitly posted data, there’s some other stuff out there that web sites know about me.  For example, my IP address can be mapped to my current location.  If I’m using the latest beta version of Flock or IE 5.0, you could probably draw some inferences about me.  If I arrived at the URL from a link posted in Facebook or MySpace or FriendFeed or a banner ad or a specific blog, what might you know about me?

This isn’t a new argument, privacy is dead and it’s getting worse the more these whipper-snapper kids start flocking online. However, if my information is already out there, why aren’t you using it to my advantage? 

  • If I visit from a Lost forum, why don’t you show me a trailer for the next episode on the home page?
  • If I visit your band’s web site, why don’t you show me the next time you’ll be in Seattle?
  • If I visit, why don’t you show me all the size 10.5 Steve Madden’s and Nike’s from your clearance section?

Sounds great, right?  But what about this scenarios?

I open an Email from my brother that starts off with comments on some photos that I’ve taken recently.  He then asks me to click on a link to donate to a cause that he is promoting.  I click through to the site and give my credit card info, only to find out later that my brother never sent me a donation request.

This is one area that we’re all going to have to pay a lot more attention to in the years to come.  And it’s important to note that this isn’t a black and white issue.  I’m probably not alone in welcoming in a new set of services that are automatically personalized to save me time and give me a better experience.  I’m even willing to take on some additional risk of facing some very sophisticated spamming/phishing techniques. 

The question is where to draw this line?  And my answer is, let me decide.

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