Privacy Mistakes for Social Media and Marketing

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rebecca Herold

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I love marketing and sales folks. Our businesses would be lost (well, at least have less revenues) without them!

I’ve worked with many different sales and marketing folks throughout the past couple of decades, and I appreciate their enthusiasm and creativity to find ways in which they can help their organizations make more revenue.

However, I’ve also found many times over the years that their creativity can quickly evolve into dangerous unbridled enthusiasm whenever new technologies or information services are discovered, and then lead to bad decisions with regard to the use of their customers’ and other consumer information.

Often times it is because 1) there is not a good understanding of what “privacy” really means, especially as it relates to their business activities, laws and policies, and 2) there is not a clear understanding of what “personal information” is, or how it can, and cannot, be used.

I’ve been seeing some significant false assumptions lead to privacy mistakes by well-intending marketing and sales folks. Here are just three of the most common privacy misbeliefs related to social media and marketing:

  • Personal information found on the Internet is “free” information and does not need to be protected. FALSE! An important aspect of legal data protection requirements, and the concept of privacy in general, is the ability of individuals to make decisions about how to share their personal information with others. Just because personal information is available somewhere on the Internet does not mean you can add it to your customer or marketing databases, or copy portions to use in your advertisements and marketing communications!
  • If you have “friended” someone on Facebook then they, by default, have given you permission to send them marketing emails and other communications. FALSE! Accepting a friend, connection or other type of request on a social media site is NOT the same as opting in to getting marketing messages from that person! Do not start sending them unsolicited sales and marketing messages. Most will view such messages as spam, and may then put your organization into their spam filter list.
  • Information you find on blogs and other public Internet social media sites are considered public domain, and organizations are free to use that information within their advertisements and other marketing publications and communications. FALSE! Just because people have written to a blog, their Facebook site, or some other social media site, doesn’t mean that the information is now available for all to use and claim as their own. The publisher of “Cooks Source” magazine recently found this out the hard way after stealing information from a blog post and representing it as the magazine’s original work.

I’ll be discussing these three privacy issues and the associated legal problems, along with some more important misguided beliefs about social media, marketing and privacy, at the Iowa American Marketing Association luncheon meeting December 1. See full details at: http://amaiowa.com/program.asp?id=60.

Would love to meet you there!

Cross-posted from the Privacy Professor

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