Privacy Shmivacy

Honestly, I’m a bit burned out on the privacy debate. It rages in all corners of our industry, from social, to display, to mobile, and everyone seems to be shocked at its ubiquity.

Privacy concerns are nothing new, not by a long shot. The idea of “privacy” is something that everyone, particularly Americans, holds dear.

Now some say that the notion of privacy in our modern world is nothing short of an illusion, but there’s a middle ground here. Privacy and online aren’t mutually exclusive — we’ve seen this played out before.

The online world has a history of smashing privacy barriers, not by forcing people to give up their privacy, but by giving them ways to get what they want while maintaining an acceptable level of risk.

Just look at the early stages of e-commerce as an industry. In the beginning, no one would have dreamed of transmitting credit card information via the web. Eventually, after much fuss and security improvements, everyone got over it. The same will happen with the current crisis.

Developments like Facebook’s Open Graph — what they propose to do with it, not its current state — promise to give people more of what they want. Some are willing to throw themselves willy-nilly into new frontiers, while others want proof that they’re safe. Either way, digital has a way of eventually working things out so people get comfortable.

Facebook’s Open Graph may not change everything, but rest assured, something will. The concept of companies relying solely on websites to communicate with potential customers is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. It’s just too big not to happen.

The reality, however, is that clients are concerned and want to know where all of this is going and how they should prepare for whatever’s to come. They look to us, as agency partners, to tell them, and while we’re not psychics, we can help.

  1. Know that you don’t own the customers — the client does. They know more about their brand and customer than you ever will, and even if this isn’t the case, this isn’t a conversation you can own. Help cultivate the conversation, but be careful not to overstep boundaries.
  2. To quote one of my all-time favorite movies, “The Right Stuff,” always “maintain an even strain.” Especially in larger companies, client partners working within digital arms or more traditional companies get tons of panicky questions from outside their department. Help them field these questions and concerns by frequently communicating the latest developments and opportunities.
  3. Increase your client-side footprint. When it comes to this particular arena, there are more players than you might think. Be sure you’re communicating to, and with, the right people.

While we can’t predict the future, we as digital professionals have been down this road before and are in a unique position to help both meter and guide the conversation. Barring a massive legal intervention, have faith that the privacy dilemma will work out — we just have to be patient and proactive.

Join us for SES San Francisco August 16-20, 2010 during ClickZ’s Connected Marketing Week. The festival is packed with sessions covering PPC management, keyword research, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, ad networks and exchanges, e-mail marketing, the real time web, local search, mobile, duplicate content, multiple site issues, video optimization, site optimization and usability, while offering high-level strategy, keynotes, an expo floor with 100+ companies, networking events, parties and more!

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