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Innovation: Your Customers’ PRIVACY is non Negotiable

My last post here at Fast Company stated that customers should be in charge of their data. Two days ago, I discovered that someone with a lot of time of their hands had scraped information about me from different sources and posted it behind a password on a site posing as a social network.

My last post here at Fast Company stated that customers should be in charge of their data. Two days ago, I discovered that someone with a lot of time of their hands had scraped information about me from different sources and posted it behind a password on a site posing as a social network.

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Peek You is apparently building a lot of profiles that way. They must be. They advertise 50,397,199 profiles online – I do wonder if the owners of that data even know that their information is in there. From many of the inquiries I made, it seems that others had found their profiles also scraped from entries in places like MySpace.

I sent an inquiry to the only contact I could find at the site, asking how my information came to appear there. So far I have received no response. The disturbing news on the site is that anyone can add or edit a profile for someone else. This is the worse kind of social network; the one someone else joins you in without your knowing.

It was bound to happen. We’ve all been focusing on the little pieces of paper from banks and other institutions spelling out their commitment to our privacy and all of a sudden, social networks are opening their doors to search engines and we cannot remember if we saw any privacy settings on the site we signed up for. Facebook will be opening the doors to search engines in what is a further step of erosion in personal privacy.

Stefanie Olsen has a pretty extensive and sobering article at ZD Net on Rapleaf. According to Jeff Chester, director of the Center for Digital Democracy, “The sites appear to be cool, but what lurks underneath is a powerful force designed to stealthily observe and collect data about you, and develop a marketing campaign to get you to behave the way they want.”

To the concerns posed about people’s privacy rights, Rapleaf’s Web 2.0 investor Jeff Clavier says: get over it. The information is already out there — the site is just aggregating it. To me that is the wrong answer, especially in an age where consumers are becoming more and more sensitized to identity theft and security issues.

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I was glad to see that at least one company decided against using a service such as Rapleaf/TrustFuse to cross reference users’ data. iLike CEO Ali Partovi was quoted to say that “One of the reasons we decided not to work with them is because it would violate our privacy policy. Our privacy policy wouldn’t allow us to give a third party access to our e-mail database.”

We live in the age of conversation, in an era were transparency and authenticity have become more than buzz words – they are an ambition and a yearning. Your customers have been pushing back on interruption marketing for years by deleting those spam emails and the newsletters they did not sign up to receive.

Now you make them police their own online profiles. Is that how you plan to begin building relationships? Let me go way out on a limb here and declare it for everyone to read – your customers’ privacy is non negotiable. You lose that trust, you’re done.

Valeria Maltoni • Conversation Agent • Philadelphia, PA • www.conversationagent.com

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