Privacy sells?


This advertising billboard in Clerkenwell stopped me in my tracks (and by tracks I mean the sedate progress of my Boris Bike) on Monday.

BlackBerry’s encryption of emails is good enough that it upsets those of an authoritarian, prying-into-your-citizens’-communications-persuasion and now they are making a selling point of it.

Privacy gets in the way of advertising business models as well as the secret police, which is why managing your privacy settings on services from your browser to Facebook is often unnecessarily complicated. It may not be a conspiracy to stop you from guarding your data, but there isn’t a perceived incentive to make this stuff really useful for the networks.

Or for anyone else. Apart from Ad Blocker web browser extensions and a clutch of very geeky tools used by activists and cautious geeks, there aren’t mass market tools and services to help people control how their data is used, how their personal becomes public…

Google’s recognised this, sort of… At least Paul Adams did in his masterpiece of a research paper on social networks – The Real Life Social Network – at Google (I note he is now at Facebook). Then we thought we’d see Google Circles, an social network designed to help with this managing of your content and conversations. But then we didn’t.

Thing is, privacy – what we want from it, what we actually mean by it, etc. – is complicated. As I discussed at Local Social Summit last year, privacy can mean all sorts of things. Privacy is proxy issue for fears and doubts about life with the web and with technology more broadly.

Anyway, back to the BlackBerry ad. I wonder if this sells phones. I wonder if privacy will sell other stuff too. I wonder if – as Alan Patrick – privacy itself is something that will be sold (as a service, a premium package, whatever…).

2 responses to “Privacy sells?”

  1. I think this is indicative of the tension we all have in using social media, email and the web.

    We know that we’re putting a lot of data out there and it might come back and bites us, yet to live our lives as we want we know we have to do it. The whole issue with the cookie legislation coming in on the 26th is this written large. We want to have an idea of what information is being collected and opt out, but we would find the mechanism of informing us and setting our preference cumbersome and annoying.

    Personally I prefer the convenience and if I want to keep it private then I avoid online channels.

  2. Monsieur
    Perhaps privacy will emerge as a “generative” as described by Kevin Kelly in that recent talk of his about how value is created in a free copy world. (

    As he says, we’re likely to find value in, and thus pay for, immediacy (download now!), findability (eg Amazon recomms), embodiment (e.g. experience/go to a gig), interpretation (expert perspective), accessibility (formats), attention and interestingly.. authentication.


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