Exactly what counts as private personal details has been a major theme underlying discussion in new media and old media in the past few weeks. Here are two interesting examples of how business and people’s personal details are colliding right now.
New Media: Facebook’s Privacy Settings Updates
Facebook has made major changes to how it handles privacy settings for users. Most likely you are familiar with the outcry and acceptance around Facebook’s push to make your updates more transparent.
Facebook was conceived around the idea of sharing detailed content like photos and notes only with your social net, which was supposed to represent your core group of friends in the meatspace. Twitter’s growth has been in addressing the extreme opposite: sharing 140 characters worth of insight with the entire world instantly.
Facebook relies on deep engagement with its users in order to get its advertisements clicked on. Facebook was forced to change its strategy because it was losing opportunities for interaction with its users to Twitter. In addition, Facebook is missing out on buzz because Facebook it is seen as lacking the real time relevance of Twitter.
The update to Facebook’s Privacy Settings is a tactic in the company’s strategy to get more Facebook users to share their updates with the public or at least make it obvious that users are welcome to do so.
The problem is that average internet users are not capable of building and utilizing a set of sophisticated privacy settings. The result is that many are unwittingly sharing what they believe is private information. Rafe Needleman makes a great point that the initial user interface designed to guide Facebook users does more to guide them to exposing their information rather than creating the controls they want.
If these ideas are to be accepted, it suggests that Facebook is knowingly creating conditions where the details of user’s personal lives are made public because it will lead the company towards greater market share and profits.
Old Media: Tiger Woods Endorsement Contracts
Let it be known that I am not a huge fan of old media. To be clear, this includes broadcast and time shifted television advertisements, magazine advertising and just about any electronic sign found in sports arenas like the Rose Garden. (Go Blazers.) My reasoning is that old media too often lacks any real context and is more about blanketing the masses with the critical six exposures rather than seeking to engage individual interests.
Celebrity endorsements or testimonials are a classic tool of old media and I couldn’t help but notice the full page advertisement for Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer, which features their “official partner” Tiger Woods.
Woods is currently deep in allegations of adultery, and after being dropped from Accenture this past Sunday the Tag Heuer made the statement that Woods’ personal life is “not our business.”
So I had a closer look at this big magazine advertisement and the text reads: “I first swung a golf club when I was nine months old…Since 1996, my Foundation has inspired more than 10 million youth…Together with TAG Heuer, I’m helping young people believe in themselves.”
My question to Tag Heuer is if you’re going to have a representative for your brand make claims about his ability to connect with and inspire children, is your representative’s personal life really not your business? It is one thing if you are going to depict your representative as a an accomplished athlete and another if he is going to be talking about his influence on kids.
I selected these to examples because I was interested in them. Facebook is social media, which I enjoy and Woods’ sex scandal has become interesting because of the business aspect and the general extent of what he’s described as “transgressions.”
But the greater comment I’m after is that it is easy to say that Facebook or major media has taken away people’s right to privacy. Or to believe that there is complete compromise in participating in social networking or great accomplishment that puts you in the public spotlight.
However, who controls your personal information and the judgement of exactly what is a constitutes “personal life” is a moving target. New technologies and dollars and cents will affect what you get to keep private as much as evolving social mores.