Privacy isn’t just Facebook’s problem. As I write over at GigaOM Pro, the entire consumer Internet and media industry had better get its collective act together on the privacy front or get ready to face serious consumer backlash and, perhaps worse, government regulation.
For the second time this year, Facebook is at the center of a privacy controversy. Many popular apps on Facebook, including social games from Zynga, have been transmitting Facebook user IDs to third parties. Some of those companies are data aggregators or data miners that create profiles of users or groups and sell them to marketers.
A Zogby poll showed that 87 percent of those surveyed were concerned with the security of their personal information online, and 80 percent were bothered by advertisers tracking them. In another survey, 96 percent of respondents said online companies shouldn’t be allowed to share or sell that info to third parties without permission, even though nearly half admitted they don’t read privacy policies.
Members of Congress are questioning Facebook on its current snafu. These are the same people who went after the “zombie cookies” highlighted in yet another Wall Street Journal story. Even before that, online privacy bills had been proposed in the House, and European regulators are passing fresh proposals around the EC. I doubt the online media industry wants to rely on congressmen understanding the nuances between zombies and other cookies; a ban on cookies would completely destroy ad targeting and optimization.
In short, the online media industry needs to rev up its lobbyists (Google spent $1.2 million on lobbying this quarter; Facebook, $120,000), explain what’s going on to legislators and to the public, and seriously consider self-regulation. Additionally, the industry should:
- Explain what they’re already doing about consumer information, and not on developer blogs. These stories need to be on home pages and in ad campaigns.
- Go after real bad guys publicly. Facebook, for instance, is suing spammers.
- Use the publicized information outlined in the first two points to create a set of best practices and an audited seal of approval.
- Use an organization like the Online Publisher’s Association — rather than the Internet Advertising Bureau or the Direct Marketing Association — as a hub for public campaigns. It would be better PR coming from the publishers, who shouldn’t be afraid to play the “democracy needs a viable press, and the press needs viable advertising” card.
Read the whole post here.
Image source: flickr user alancleaver
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