If you own or run a business, you approach online privacy from two perspectives: one as a private citizen and the other as an entrepreneur who wants to reach potential customers.
As a private citizen, you likely would prefer to keep as much of your information to yourself as possible. As a businessperson, you’re interested in what people are doing and where they are.
Google and Facebook have been working to balance those two perspectives as well, not always successfully. The steps they take may eventually affect your company’s ability to connect with people online. Business people don’t have to panic yet, however.
Google has announced it will create mechanisms for users to automatically delete information that the service has collected about search history and location. Going forward, you won’t have to manually delete the information. After three or 18 months, it will disappear.
Google is itself a voracious consumer of the information it collects. After all, such data help Google’s advertising customers target ads to users who have expressed interest in general categories and specific products. Google knows where its users travel, when they are active and, especially, which websites they visit. Obviously, that is all valuable to businesses trying to find potential customers.
How will it change your advertising habits?
The adjustments, however slight, might cause the advertising market to change.
Mobilemarketer.com reported that Google’s approach to stricter European Union privacy rules that went into effect last year has already caused ad buyers to re-examine “their reliance on Google’s ad tech as the company limits the sharing of data for independent ad-attribution strategies.” Further tightening of data gathering might reduce Google’s value to advertisers even more.
On the other hand, the technology publication Arstechnica.com speculates that the new auto-delete feature is more of a gimmick than a true value to users:
“It is likely Google is willing to offer the option to automatically wipe the older data due to it being less useful to the company than newer logs. While there may be some value in keeping location logs beyond three months for some users, logs beyond 18 months is unlikely to be valuable to either Google or its users.”
Like Google, Facebook faces tremendous pressure to both stop collecting so much information on users — and to protect it more robustly. As a result, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in a blog post that he envisions transforming Facebook from an open platform to one in which participants can have discussions in a setting that is more like a private living room.
Both companies are likely looking for ways to preserve their money-making abilities while giving governments and other watchdogs reason to consider more regulations. Regarding your personal privacy, you should keep an eye on developments. Regarding your ability to communicate with potential customers, call us at (203) 491-2814 if you want to make sure your own website complies with all applicable rules and continues to give you the best chance to increase your reach.