Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Why Web 2.0 will end your privacy

bit-tech.net : "So Murdoch knows everything about MySpace. The financial gurus at Yahoo know all about your personal thoughts, pictures and bookmarks. The guys at Google know everything about your search habits, and you can bet they want to link 'em up to your email and calendar and whatever else you end up using online. How much is that data worth? With marketing spends online going ever upwards, as more and more of the world 'logs on', you can bet that it's only going to get more and more valuable.

And where it's valuable, it will be bought and sold. Our social networks, searching habits, visual identifiers and personal preferences will be mercilessly sold to anyone who wants to get their hands on our particular demographic. And when your photos, your files, your email and your friends are all online, you'll have to be online - and thanks to net everywhere, like the Google San Francisco project, you'll always be able to be online. And as long as you're online, they can market to you.

When the Web 2.0 bubble bursts - when the massive buyouts are done, the millionaires are made and the sites we love today are in the hands of big business - the innovation will grind to a halt, and what's left will be the endless grinding of the marketeering machine.

But hey - at least you'll be closer to your friends. And you'll have free photo hosting, too."

I think this prediction is far too dour. Social computing, like any activity requiring interaction between two or more persons, by definition requires the loss of at least some of your privacy. But I think I would rather focus on the benefits to individuals and the facilitation of creativity than obssess over who may be able to profit from the knowledge of my individual preferences based on my public communications.

As someone who has worked in marketing in previous careers, I am acutely aware of the value of knowing what a customer wants. But as a customer, don't you think I would rather have someone offer me something related to my needs or interests instead of watching countless hours of commercials for products like Bowflex, Cialis, or Lexus automobiles (I find their ridiculous ads during the holidays particularly irritating - as if the average wife could afford to go out and SURPRISE her husband with a $50,000 car for a gift)? I may be a bit strange but I actually appreciate the targeted suggestions of books and movies I receive from Amazon based on my search and purchase history.

I also think the warning that our beloved Web 2.0 services will become stagnant pools of data without the benefit of future innovation is relatively baseless as well. The PC industry has always been user driven and I think the large media companies realize the continuing need to improve their users' experiences to keep them coming back to the wellspring. Articles have already appeared discusing the fact that these same media companies expect users to be a valuable source of creative content in the future. So I doubt that services such as Flickr and YouTube that facilitate content creation and sharing will become viewed as simply a drain on corporate profits.
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