From Orwell to Foursquare – Comfort, Privacy, and Geolocation

OrwellFoursquare is all the rage. By “checking in” at your various haunts, you can become the “Mayor” — of your local library, McDonalds, or coffee bar. You can make it easy for people to find you when you’re out and about. You also supply a public record of your movements throughout the day.

Geolocation services with social elements are the latest big thing, even Facebook is looking at integrating these functions into its platform as a result of their popularity. People everywhere are enthusiastically sharing their movements with the world.

Kevin Dugan, host of the Strategic Public Relations blog since 2002, recently noted this trend as well.

We’ve gone from a society that fears the documentation of our actions by an organization to one that willingly records and shares them with social media sites. [Emphasis his.]

I’m obviously comfortable doing so. But even I have limits as to what I share online. Surprised?

I’m not suggesting we rethink this, jump off the grid and start lining our hats with aluminum foil. But as consumers we need to think about our information sharing in the big picture. Consumers get a sense of entitlement with free sites like Facebook and Twitter. But your privacy is a participation sport. And this is bigger than game mechanics.┬áSpend some time with the terms of service around the sites with which you share information.

I cannot agree strongly enough with the last paragraph, as the vast majority of people do not bother to read the rules for the platforms that they use. Most times, they are completely unaware of the uses to which their data can be put. Granted, it is especially hard to keep up with the changes, just look at Facebook — its privacy policy and controls seem to change constantly. Still, it’s your data, and hence it’s your responsibility to keep up with these things.

In addition, it makes for an interesting study. As Dugan points out, we freely share certain personal information, but we would be most upset if someone tried to obtain it without our permission. It is amazing how easy our permission is to obtain when framed in terms of social interaction and convenience.

Source: “1984 – not an instruction manual,” Strategic Public Relations, 08/24/10
Image by jbonnain, used under its Creative Commons license.

About George Williams

George “Loki” Williams is the community and brand manager for award wining game company Savage Mojo, Ltd. and the owner of SocialGumbo, LLC, an online consultancy specializing in Web content and online communications. Loki has produced content for clients including the Open Society Institute, National Association of Broadcasters, Kobold Press, and Kaiser Permanente. His work has been seen or written about in The New York Times, The BBC, Air America, The Gambit Weekly, and NOLA.com, among others.

  

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