From SxSW: privacy vs sharing

Privacy is about choice and control. Not to mention the default option.

Shortly after SxSWi came to an end, I asked a number of people I admire the following question: What is the most actionable takeaway you got from SxSW. Was there a session, a lesson, a soundbite, an example that made you go aha, or that you believe will inspire and or change any of your behavior, tactics, strategies next year either for you or your clients?

This is the second of three posts recapping people’s answers. Three really smart thinkers/bloggers/doers weigh in on privacy, control and choice when it comes to what we share.

The delicate balance between too much openness and not enough

Ben Malbon, executive director of innovation at BBH, and managing partner and founder of BBH Labs

“I was struck by two themes that are simply different sides of the same coin: privacy and openness.
 Most of the attendees seemed happy leaving digital footprints on just about every application possible, but especially Foursquare & Gowalla. SXSW was an orgy of check-ins.
 Yet many of us were lucky to see brilliant presentations from Clay Shirky and Danah Doyd on the subject of privacy on the Internet, why that matters, and how easy it is to get it wrong.

Boyd summed it up beautifully: “Neither privacy nor publicity is dead, but technology will continue to make a mess of both.”

For me this seems to be the challenge of the moment for brands, agencies, tech companies: how to navigate that delicate line between too much openness, and not enough.
There are no easy answers, and much to learn.”

You shouldn’t have to opt-in to privacy

Faris Yakob, former EVP Chief Technology Strategist at McCann Erickson New York, blogger

“For me the two most inspiring, interesting sessions were from Clay Shirky and Danah Boyd.

They are both incredible presenters that know how to engage with audiences – a vital communication skill at a conference, as Umair Haque found out – and their two keynotes circled around the same topic – how sharing information changes culture and brands and people.

Shirky pointed out that sharing information is not just a behavior we are evolutionary programmed to favor – it’s one we are programmed to enjoy. Danah pointed out that privacy is still incredibly important – that privacy is about who controls the access to and distribution of information, and whilst for many of us living in public has granted us great opportunities, for marginalized parts of society it can present significant danger.

It’s somewhere along this axis of public/private that the dynamic equilibrium of mutual information control exists and it’s this ever moving nexus that the new relationships between brands and their customers are being created – brands creating semi-permeable membranes to let their customers become a part of their community, their customers sharing more in order to receive more relevance, but both respecting each other’s right to control their own information to some extent.

As Dan Ariely pointed out in his talk, the default option within a choice architecture has a very powerful effect on people’s decisions – people usually pick the default. So, in matters of information flow between companies and customers, the default should always be OPT IN, not OPT OUT.”

Privacy is about choice and control

Mike Arauz, Strategist, Undercurrent, Blogger

“I’m sure I won’t be the only one to note that the mobile-location app Foursquare made a big splash at SXSWi this year. Location-aware technology is going over the tipping point as we speak. And the result is that the places we go and the experiences we have in the physical world are now becoming part of our virtual life stream. This means that restaurants and bars have the same potential for sudden exponential attention that web videos of kittens do. It also means, as Danah Boyd pointed out in her keynote address, that privacy is more important than ever.

As I went from the airport to the convention center to BBQ joints and bars, I was constantly aware of the potential of accessing my social network. But, I wanted the choice to share it – or not share it – with the people around me to be my own. As our physical world and virtual worlds continue to collide, navigating this delicate balance between public and private will be more important than ever.”

Thank you Ben, Faris and Mike for your contributions. Clearly privacy will continue to be an issue. Note more of Danah Boyd’s comments. One more post in this series to come.  The next one on sharing and community, with comments from Len Kendall, Tim Malbon, Bud Caddell, Margot Bloomstein, CC Chapman and Matt Howell.

Thanks for reading.  And as always, feel free to leave your opinion.  Note that it won’t be private.

Photo by: Juliana Coutinho

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