I came across the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s history of Facebook privacy statements yesterday while investigating reactions to Facebook’s new information-sharing features, and the response they elicited from legislators. It got me thinking about the profound communications problem many companies are just beginning to confront.
Privacy is being forced to evolve – yes, by companies like Facebook and Google – but also by consumers who are sharing more and more about their lives without regards to their own privacy, and now, by their growing interest in legislating the issue, by our governments.
Brands that play in this space – and these days, which brands don’t – have to find a way to maintain the trust they have with consumers while experimenting with different privacy regimes (in the case of platforms like Facebook), or with the wealth of data that social platforms can make available to them. With so much changing, so fast, it seems unlikely that companies or consumers will willingly walk away from the potential benefits of tapping into the data, or, in the case of consumers, happily handing it over to derive some other benefit.
So while the world waits for the forced evolution of privacy to come to some sort of generally accepted conclusion, what to do? It seems to me that the only way to navigate these shifting sands is to follow some very simple communications rules:
There’s certainly more a company can and should do, but it seems to me that companies often lose sight of simple communications precepts that help them demonstrate to their audience that they care, as they invariably do, and take their audience’s concerns seriously. At the end of the day it amounts to following the golden rule, but don’t the pressures of business life often make it seem much more complicated?