Recently a friend of mine posed a question about “free” social media sites and privacy. He assumed that if we only had paid accounts there would be far fewer difficult privacy issues. Fact is, I don’t think this is the case. While it is true we currently pay with our privacy when we use many online services, introducing paid accounts will not change these organizations sometimes invasive privacy practices (or those of 3rd parties).
I contend for most services – paid accounts will only mean stronger revenues but little change in privacy behavior & policies. Look at the example of many paid social sites – if you have a paid account. Is it ad free? Nope! Ads still exist, even on paid accounts. Wherever there is data on consumers these actors will go and inject themselves into our activities to garner insights. Paying for access will not remove the desire to mine this data from all parties involved. Of course, as a business person, I understand the need for these firms to maintain a level of profitability to remain in operation. I’d just like a balanced system than we currently have. Additionally paid accounts do nothing to change or control the behavior of third party tracking/data mining firms who have no requirements to behave in a way that is ethical or respectful of our privacy. Perhaps regulatory and legal frameworks are an answer but they never seem to materialize. Industry will always evolve and chase profits but there should be some balance of marketing ethically while respecting consumer privacy. As an ethical marketer, I see this balance as vitally important. We should communicate the value of the good or services attempt to market while respecting the privacy of the customers/users we interact with. This can and should be done.
Ethical Marketing Imperative
As a consumer, the only way we gain more privacy is if we demand it — both with our dollar and our voices. If these issues matter to you let your politicians know you want action on them. Also, consider joining the EFF (www.eff.org) or EPIC (www.epic.org), two organizations that work tirelessly to restore some balance to this difficult issue. Finally, let the websites/social media outlets/cloud services/etc. know you want changes in their privacy policies and practices. I doubt that simply handing them a pile of cash will change anything except your bank balance. Lastly, as I said previously – we as marketers must step up to the plate and change the balance of this equation. Marketing must involve the fundamental respect of the consumer and his/her privacy and communicating with them in a way/method they desire. Only this will lead to a better web and a more effective connection to consumers. I look forward to being one of those in Marketing that ushers in this new era.