One topic of interest that has been discussed on numerous occasions here at DuetsBlog is the expansion of social networking sites and the implications for branding. Brad Walz has commented on the benefits and risks associated with social networking cites, while Dan Kelly has commented that the entire model may be doomed to fail. I, myself, have injected my two-cents into the conversation.
Facebook has been one of the most frequent subjects of conversation because if its seemingly never-ending efforts at creative branding. These efforts have been butting heads with the “privacy” of Facebook’s users, and have created some interesting press, with the most recent issue arising earlier this month. Facebook’s problems will no doubt impact the reputation of its own brand, as well as the brands that are connected to Facebook. But, while this is, of course, interesting, it’s not the most interesting component of the discussion to me.
I believe the most interesting thing about these Facebook disputes is the need for a reexamination of what a “privacy right” is, and what right advertisers or others have to exploit information known about individuals. Generally, one would expect a breach of privacy to require disclosure or exploitation of “private information.” But what’s so private about information which is available to hundreds of people, loosely described as “friends,” via a website that virtually everyone can access? Do I really have an expectation of privacy with respect to Facebook postings? I shouldn’t. Additionally, what’s so private about my online purchases? If I purchase something in a brick-and-mortar store, everyone else that happens to be in that store could know what my purchase was. Heck, the cashier may even make a suggestion for an additional purchase given the items I’m buying. There would be no obligation on that person to keep my purchase a secret, nor should there be.
So what’s wrong with websites cataloging and using such information to target advertising via the internet? Isn’t that just smart business? (I have my own personal opinions on the matter, but I’d be interested in hearing what others have to say.)