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Beware the 3 P's: Pinterest, Path and Privacy


By Paul Fabretti, global director, social media

February 10, 2012 | 4 min read

Data...we HAVE managed to get in a right old pickle with it this week...

...first, Path, the social network whose modus operandi is limiting your personal network to 150 of your closest friends decides to upload all your personal contacts you granted it access to "in order to better personalise your experience", then Pinterest, the fastest-growing start-up on the planet with just shy of 10m unique users (and still in beta!), reveals that when possible, it adds affiliate links to the content that you, the user, pins to your boards.

On the Facebook front, we have the widespread rejection of in-stream sponsored stories, brand/page advocacy by mere "fanship" of a Page, the 2011 integration with Spotify and the January announcement of 60 seamless sharing media partners and you begin to see an emerging, simmering suspicion that Facebook is looking to heavily ramp up its advertising/commercial initiatives post-IPO in order to bring the kinds of profits and dividends investors will demand - all off the back of your personal information.

The issue seems not, in Pinterest's case, that they are making money from users (most users are very clear that Facebook uses their data in a less direct, but similar way), nor in Path's case that they are collecting the data at all (it happens all the time when users grant access to an app/api) - the issue is entirely one of trust and disclosure which presents untold challenges for individuals and law-makers alike.

What we know as privacy has changed immeasurably from just a year ago and whilst we are increasingly comfortable with both the quantity and nature of what we share and when, the commercial thirst for using personal data for financial gain (often a financial gain that is not ours) has the potential to bring the whole personalised web pack of cards falling down around our ears.

We are on a knife edge with trust and privacy, with Facebook especially, pushing serious boundaries of user tolerance and legal boundaries. Despite the ASA remit now covering social media, law makers are struggling to catch up with a rate of change and innovation that is being thrust upon users in the social space.

As a result I think we are most certainly in a strange period of creatively-led law making rather than one in which businesses are required to operate within clear, unambiguous current law. And I don't see this changing for some time to come - until the inevitable BIG data abuse happens, where two things will happen. 1. Users will revolt and disappear/revoke access to their data and 2. Law makers will impose "hammer to crack a walnut" style laws, governing the way personal/social data is handled in a strictly limiting, broad way.

If the law makers can't keep up with the rate of change, then the first or perhaps second, major data abuse will bring about a blanket limitation on what we will be able to do. So, for all our sakes, everybody, please disclose, disclose, disclose...(disc: kind of funny, angry pickle pic from here!)


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