Speed 12 March 2012

We seem to have accepted that handing over our personal data is the price that we must pay to access web services.

It’s an issue that is clouded by terms and conditions that consumers don’t read until they attract the attention of the mainstream media. And even then there is little evidence that users really care.

When Google announced the changes to its services recently there was uproar on Twitter of course. But how many people have stopped using Google’s services? Very few is my guess.

European Union regulators claim the revised privacy policy violates European law but Google has pressed on with the changes regardless asserting that it follows European data protection laws and principles.

Similarly, news that Twitter is reselling your tweets from the last two-years via businesses such as DataSift hasn’t resulted in a mass exodus from the social networking platform.

Apps fly off Android and Apple app stores irrespective of the fact that the terms and conditions clearly state they will have access to your contacts, diary, location, and just about everything but your underwear drawer.

The fact is that either we simply don’t care or more likely the benefits of the services outweigh the privacy concerns. It’s almost certainly a generational issue.

Facebook “it’s free and always will be” founder Mark Zuckerberg famously said that privacy is dead. That’s almost certainly because he’s banking the $100 billion valuation of his business when it floats thanks to your personal information.

Do the maths. The target valuation based on 800 million users is $125 per user. That’s the annual profit that the business is going to need to derive per user to justify its value and you’re going to have to pay one way or another.

Should we be concerned about privacy and businesses trading our data in 2012? Show me a web connection and given a couple of minutes I’ll show you where you live, the rental or purchase price of your house, your phone number and relationship status.

Machines may be able to spot general trends in large volumes of data and serve an ad based on keywords or an individual profile but we’re some way off effective personal data mining. But its coming.

When I logged onto Facebook tonight my timeline was punctuated by ads for Alick Alexander underwear, Audi and Visa. Zukenberg it seems really does have access to my underwear drawer.

Peer analytics tool Klout characterises me as influential about PR, social media and the media. Fair enough. But The Daily Mail, the iPad and investing? That’s a stretch.

Data mining will get better of course as technology matures but on balance I reckon that Zuckerberg called it right. Privacy is dead and for his business you’re the product.

Photo by GOIABA (Goiabarea) via Flickr with thanks.

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