Web companies need privacy education PR plan

Google's mass e-mail to its Gmail users this week on the Google Buzz privacy lawsuit is another reminder that Internet privacy is a deep concern for individuals, and web-based tech companies are losing the PR battle over the issue.

Google's mass e-mail to its Gmail users this week on the Google Buzz privacy lawsuit is another reminder that Internet privacy is a deep concern for individuals, and web-based tech companies are losing the PR battle over the issue.

Lately companies like Google and Facebook, true trailblazers and leaders in the Web 2.0 era, are being forced into public acknowledgment and reaching out to users on the issue. Being coerced into PR by outside regulatory and other forces is not good PR, and it suggests ineptitude and secrecy.

As part of the settlement over privacy lapses in Google Buzz, the social networking and messaging service integrated into Gmail, the company said in the e-mail it will make changes to the service addressing privacy concerns, and give $8.5 to a fund that supports organizations working on Internet privacy policy and education.

By saying this, Google unwittingly acknowledges it was forced to do this by the lawsuit, not necessarily because it wants to, or believes it's just the right thing to do.

Earlier this week Facebook announced a zero-tolerance policy for third-party apps on its platform that share information with web data brokers. The announcement followed a Wall Street Journal investigative article that said third-party apps on Facebook had shared individual user info to web data brokers.

At a Facebook product launch event at its Palo Alto headquarters on Wednesday a reporter stood up and asked CEO Mark Zuckerberg how the company will protect user personal information concerning the new products. Zuckerberg and his cohorts seemed taken aback by the question, and for a second stumbled to answer it. Zuckerberg finally sputtered out a canned line on how the company's privacy policy will not change in light of the product launches.

Web 2.0 companies need to be clear and confident about explaining their privacy policies, objectives, and controls. They simply cannot assume that people will get it, and know how to work opt-in and opt-out controls. If the language is complex, they need to make it simpler

For the sake of social media innovation, this is a PR battle these companies must win, and can.  But they need to stop haphazardly reacting, and instead get ahead of the message.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in