You are the Product

In our current increasingly digital world, one of the increasing concerns is privacy.

It's startling the quantity of content people will post or share about themselves online via blogs, Flickr, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and a plethora of other digital and social media platforms which are now at our immediate disposal.

Actually, it isn't even the quantity of content being freely shared at an exponential rate but the personal and confidential nature of it. People share things without giving serious thought to the potential long-term implications to themselves, both personally and professionally.

It would be also foolish to think that the issue of privacy is restricted to the teen segment because they are supposedly the most reckless. Just ask Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook cofounder) for her thoughts on the matter.

We now live in a world where we can share anything instantly due to the incredible advancement of digital, social and mobile technologies. Indeed, this can be viewed as a blessing or a curse so the real question is where do we draw the line?

Something as simple as being judicious with the amount and type of personal information being shared online is a good start. To what degree depends on each individual but I heard an analogy over the holidays (unfortunately I can't recall the source) and it resonated with me personally.

Imagine someone calling you at home in the evening without identifying themselves and then asking you these questions:

  1. "What is your full name?"
  2. "What is your marital status?"
  3. "What is your full date of birth?"
  4. "Where do you bank?"
  5. "Where did you go to university?"
  6. "Where do you work and what is the exact address?"
  7. "What is your current relationship status?"
  8. "What is the name of your pet?"
  9. "Do you have children?"
  10. "What school do your children attend and what do they look like?"

Most of us would not answer all of these questions and probably call the police afterwards. But if you check out random user profiles on any major social media site how many individuals provide answers to most if not all of these questions? Or go further sharing very personal views about sensitive topics such as sex, politics and religion? Things one would probably never share with complete strangers, colleagues, clients or acquaintances.

Why do we do this? Part of the rationale is that social networks are 'free' but we agree to provide information to use them. Ken Mueller recently noted we may do this as this trade off of our privacy in return for a better customer experience. That is a valid point but as noted in the following brief video it could come at a cost:

The point is not about going into total lock down as it relates to digital and social media platforms.

The point is not about going to the other extreme and being completely reckless with our private information.

The point should be about educating ourselves as business leaders, our teams, organizations and stakeholders on critical matters such as privacy and being judicious about what we share, when, where, with whom and how via digital and social media channels. Because at the end of the day, as the adage goes: "If you aren't paying for the product, then you are product."

Sulemaan Ahmed

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Tags: Digital, Social Media, Consumer Protection, Privacy