The price of privacy or how much for your privacy?

One area of concern in building this website is giving the user sophisticated privacy features and total control over their settings. We are constantly thinking of ways to give as much value as possible without asking for more private information.

Lately, with the advances in marketing research the Internet has brought, this issue has become a hot topic. In a matter of seconds, crucial information can be collected about every user. Companies and individuals can find out where you studied, where you live, who your friends are and where you work. Furthermore, companies are able to passively collect data about your usage of their websites (Scroogle, Google watch), products (Sony Playstation) or services (Mandarin Oriental).

Well defined privacy policies have become the norm, but the number of users that actually read them is very small (around 1%). A Consumer Reports investigation mentioned that nearly half of all consumers assess the credibility of a site based in part on the appeal of its overall visual design (here). According to Forrester Research analyst, Christopher Kelley, this is somewhat of a contradiction. On one hand users have been found to trust websites where they know their information is safe, on the other hand they rarely find out if it actually is (here). This has spurred websites to find creative ways to “push” their privacy policies, for example, Google video privacy policy (may be found below).

As the Internet slowly makes its way into our every day life, I believe we will see more and more discussions about where we draw the line. We are proven daily that proper use of collected data can truly benefit us, as customers. Our decisions, commercial or other, are statements we make about who we are, with that I expect a sharp increase in the demand for personalized products. Seth Godin previously said: “Build products for customers, not customers for products”, and only by knowing your customers can you truly build for them.

In the end, it is not a question of privacy as much as it is a question of trust. Companies that succeed in building genuine trust among their user base will be able to push the boundaries of personalization.

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