Facebook privacy improvements are good news for marketers

Facebook, with its billion-plus active users, is a can’t-ignore platform for marketers. But there has been a longstanding problem with Facebook. Many users view with suspicion its approach to privacy and sharing data it collects about us.

Especially for people who started on Facebook early when it was truly a place where we could connect with family and friends, the terms of our implicit deal with Facebook seemed to change in an unpredictable and one-sided way. Yes, we all understand that Facebook must be a profitable company and that means monetizing the data and action of the people who use it. However, how it was doing this was to often opaque to the user and seemingly arbitrary.

Yesterday at f8, Mark Zuckerberg announced three new measures that will give users greater control of the personal information that we share with others. Even better, these measures are being implemented in a very user-friendly and accessible way, something which has not always been the case with past Facebook privacy measures.

So, what did he announce?

login3First, Facebook now will allow people to try new apps in an anonymous mode without having to give away all of our personal information simply to test the app. In my mind, this is a huge and important move on Facebook’s part.

The reality is that, in the past most people would simply agree to any of the privacy and data sharing provisions presented to them in order to get at the shiny new object that they wanted to try out. In no way could their consent be considered informed. And if we decided that we didn’t like the app, we needed to wade through a difficult-to-use app menu in order to find and delete the app.

With the change announced yesterday by Zuckerberg, users will be able test the app before giving it access to our personal data. If we like it, we can register at a later date to share our information and achieve the customization offered as a result. Giving users the ability to test a nap before they give away personal data is a huge and long overdue move.

login1Second, when a users do decide to register for an app, we now will be given greater control over which information we share with apps.

Public information will be shared as a default. However information such as our friends list, email address, birthdate and other personal information will be subject to a conscious decision to share on the users part. Each type of information to be shared will be clearly indicated on a login screen so that users can stop and consider what we are doing. Another important move that will make a difference.

Finally, Facebook is redesigning its app control panel to make it easier to see what we have shared through each app and make adjustments after we have installed them. A simple move that makes controlling our privacy attainable for even the casual user.

You won’t see these changes immediately. Facebook will introduce them gradually over the coming weeks and months. The new app control panel will appear first, within weeks according to Facebook. The anonymous login currently is being tested by a few developers, with rollout to more developers planned in the coming months. The new login should be introduced in a few months.

Anything that builds trust in the platform is good news for marketers

So, that’s what Facebook announced yesterday. Three simple and straightforward changes that go a long way to giving us greater control over our privacy on Facebook. And as such, they help to restore a degree of confidence and trust in Facebook.

Marketers should be applauding these changes. By building our trust in the platform, Facebook makes itself a more welcoming and trustworthy platform for marketers’ messages.

Yesterday was a good day for privacy. Yesterday was a good day for Facebook. Yesterday was a good day for marketers.

Noteworthy: We're making conscious choices about who we give our personal data to

  • “54% of app users have decided to not install a cell phone app when they discovered how much personal information they would need to share in order to use it
  • “30% of app users have uninstalled an app that was already on their cell phonebecause they learned it was collecting personal information that they didn’t wish to share”

Those numbers are much higher than I would have expected. Why? Because most app terms of service are understandable only to lawyers and people with the patience to read them closely. And because I would have expected most people to rush past them in their eagerness to try out the shiny new app on their mobile device.

But it turns out Americans are more privacy-savvy than I expected. Good for us!

Read the full report: Privacy and Data Management on Mobile Devices

Pathways to Privacy Research Symposium: Privacy for Everyone

Privacy is an issue that has caught many users of social media and social networks unawares. Heck, it’s probably an active issue for 99% of us, whether we’re aware of it or not.

The challenge of online privacy starts with the terms of reference that we “read” when we’re signing up for a new service. How many of us actually read through the pages of legalese that stand between us and the shiny new service or app that we want to try out? Very few, I’d say.

The problem is compounded by changes to privacy policies we didn’t understand in the first place.

Remember, if you are not paying for a service, then you yourself are probably the product. And some advertiser or other third party is probably paying to access the data you’ve willingly and perhaps unwittingly provided to the shiny new app/service. It’s a case of User Beware.

Thankfully, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner have both taken an active, intelligent interest in online privacy. For several years, they’ve researched issues related to our online privacy and shared their findings and observations in real life events and online. They’ve been effective advocates for our personal privacy even when we’ve given into the temptation to skip reading the privacy notices or not spent enough time considering the issues surrounding privacy. (Few of us do, including me. They are complex and layered. Tougher to get our minds around than the simple joy of “liking” or “friending”.)

So, I’m looking forward to an upcoming event staged by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. On May 2, they are convening a day-long research symposium: Pathways to Privacy: Privacy for Everyone with a top-notch line up of speakers from academe, government, and civil society. Topics and speakers include:

8:30 – 8:50 am Opening Remarks
  • Ms. Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada
  • Ms. Patricia Kosseim, Senior General Counsel and Director General, Legal Services, Policy and Research Branch, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

8:50 – 9:15 amOpening Keynote

9:15 – 10:30 amPanel 1: The Changing Landscape for Youth

10:45 – 12:00 pmPanel 2: Reaching Diverse Populations

1:00 – 1:25 pmAfternoon Keynote

1:25 – 2:45 pmPanel 3: Cultural Perspectives on Privacy

3:00 – 4:20 pmPanel 4: Frontiers of Surveillance and Identification among Different Populations

4:20 – 4:30 pmClosing remarks

I’m planning to attend this symposium. And if I’m able, I’ll record interviews with the speakers who have the most impact and make the greatest contribution to thinking on privacy issues.


Browsing Facebook is now secure, but not in Canada

Once again, Canadians can only envy our neighbours in the United States as they enjoy a much-coveted feature that a service provider hasn’t enabled for us. In this case, secure browsing of Facebook.

Earlier today, Facebook posted that, “Starting today we’ll provide you with the ability to experience Facebook entirely over HTTPS.” The post was illustrated with a graphic showing the option in the Account Security settings:

So, I clicked over to my Facebook Account Security settings and what did I discover? Facebook browsing may be secure in the U.S., but not yet in Canada. Canadian Account Security settings still lack the Secure Browsing (https)  option:

The delay in offering this option to Canada is ironic given that Canada’s Privacy Commissioner more than anyone has been holding Facebook to account for its capricious approach to privacy. I would have thought that anything that provides greater security of personal information would be rolled out in Canada at the outset.

I’ve asked on Quora when secure Facebook browsing will be available in Canada. If you know this information, please post the answer on my question or as a comment on this post.

UPDATE: It’s now Friday, two days since Facebook announced secure browsing. I just checked my Account Security settings again. The Secure Browsing option still does not appear. Is it unreasonable to think that Facebook could roll out a basic security feature like this to all of its subscribers at once?


Thanks to the Blog Herald for pointing to the Facebook post about the new secure log in. Even if I can’t have it now, I know I want it, whenever it is turned on for Canadians.

Canada's Consumer Privacy Consultations: Location-based/Geospatial Tracking

The afternoon panel at the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Consumer Privacy Consultations dealt with location based/geospatial tracking.

The panelists were:

  • Keith McIntosh, Director of Regulatory Affairs, Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association
  • Dr. Teresa Scassa, Canada Research Chair in Information Law, University of Ottawa
  • Jesse Hirsh, broadcaster
  • Prashant Shukle, Director General of the Mapping Information Branch, Natural Resources Canada
  • Michael J. O’Farrell, Mobile Marketing Association

Lisa Campbell, Acting General Counsel, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, moderated.

I used CoverItLive to capture the highlights of the discussion from the Twitter stream.

Consumer Privacy Consultations – Location-based / Geospatial Tracking

Canada's Consumer Privacy Consultations: Advertising Panel

Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart and her office assembled a panel of industry and academic experts to explore issues relating to advertising and privacy.

The panel:

  • Elizabeth Denham, Assistant Privacy Commissioner of Canada
  • Paula Gignac, President, Advertising Bureau of Canada
  • Dr. Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
  • Dr. Avner Levin, Director of the Privacy and Cyber Crime Institute, Ryerson University
  • Jules Polonetsky, Director, Future of Privacy Forum
  • Anne Toth, Chief Privacy Officer, Yahoo

I’ve used CoverItLive to curate the Twitter stream around this event to pull out the highlights.

Advertising: 2010 Consumer Privacy Consultations, Toronto

Privacy and Disclosure Issues in Social Media

Privacy is one of the key issues facing everyone of us as we navigate social media.

I readily share great swathes of what I care about, think and do through my postings on ProPR.ca, Twitter and other social media channels. On the other hand, there are parts of my life relating to friends and family that I don’t share. I believe that they must find their own level of comfort with the open book that is social media and define their own boundaries on what they will share and what they won’t.

A panel of three corporate lawyers,  Martin Kratz, Ariane Siegel and Mark Hayes,talked about the privacy issues relating to the use of social media in and by organizations.

I’m capturing the highlights of the Twitter stream during this session at the Managing Social Media conference using the #CdnInst hashtag and posting them here using CoverItLive.

Click on the CoverItLive window below to see the Twitter discussion of this session.

Martin Kratz, Ariane Siegel and Mark Hayes