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Why No Public Blowout Over Personal Privacy Breaches & Google Violations?

Topic: Mobile Apps | Author: Jeff Hasen | Date: February 24, 2012

protesting privacy violationsIn this column and across my other posts, I have often called out Facebook, Google and other companies  for privacy invasions that torpedo any trust that we as consumers can possibly have in the resolve of these Web giants to respect the integrity of our personal data.

I’ve watched company after company cross the line and have patiently waited for a tipping point where the harm done creates a wave of public protest that forces meaningful change.

I’m still waiting.

In case you missed it, Google has once again pushed the limits of what we should be willing to take. (And my point here is that you are not alone if the news failed to catch your attention.)

Google reportedly breached the privacy of millions of Apple Safari users by fooling the Web browser into accepting tracking cookies it normally wouldn’t take. According to PC World, Google does have regrets. For the record PC World reports that “Google… says this is an unhappy accident.” Moreover, “Google never intended to track its users in this manner.”

It’s good to acknowledge a wrong, but it doesn’t make it right. Google’s violation not only breaks the “contract” between Apple and its Safari users; it blows to pieces the promises Google made to the United States’ Federal Trade Commission that “bars the company from future privacy misrepresentations.”

How might the government entity punish Google? The Los Angeles Times suggests some severe measures to take. “If Google is found to have violated its agreement with the FTC, the company could face fines of up to $16,000 per day for each violation.”

Wow, $16,000 should get Google’s attention. The Web giant likely pays more than that for daily lunches in its cafeteria.

Now back to the question of whether Web users care about their privacy.  I, for one, use Safari on multiple devices, and I do feel “violated.” But will I change browsers because of this, or operate under the assumption that the next browser I use will invade my space as well?

That’s a hard decision and one that each of us — myself included— will have to make.

In my upcoming book titled Mobilized Marketing, I speak with Thom Kennon, senior vice president and director of strategy at Y&R, who tells me flat out that “privacy is delusional.”

As he sees it (and I recount in the book): “I don’t think for the last 70 or 80 years of consumerism have we enjoyed this Pollyannaish view of what privacy and data protection we were going to have. I don’t believe even aspirationally that it’s attainable.”

How I See It: This privacy issue will go on long after you have read Kennon’s full comments. And you can read his provocative views on our personal privacy on May 1, when my book is released. Peggy adds: Thanks for the preview of your upcoming book, Jeff, and I look forward to featuring excerpts (and more) here on MobileGroove.

Samsung’s statement

Samsung introduced its new Galaxy Note device — complete with a stylus — via a with a bold Super Bowl TV advertisement and accompanied be even bolder talk of consumer demand for a smartphone/tablet hybrid.

Is this the device consumers were waiting for? It’s a tough one to call, and I’m sure we can expect more discussion about user device interest next week when the industry meets to debate hot trends and developments at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain.

You may recall that Steve Jobs famously dissed focus groups, claiming that consumers are not savvy enough to know what they want or need. Of course, there are also other companies that build products (and their own business prowess) based on the feedback and insights they get after talking to consumers. In this sense, speaking with those who may buy – or not buy – something new and different can serve as a kind of reality check.

As for the hybrid, I haven’t personally dreamt of the day when my smartphone and tablet would become one. And I also haven’t met anyone who desires such a combination smartphone/tablet device.

That doesn’t stop Samsung from being bullish about its newest 5.3 inch device. It markets the Note as “the ultimate on-the-go device which consolidates core benefits of diverse mobile devices while maintaining smartphone portability.”

And Samsung tells us this is the device we have been waiting for. Its consumer research indicates that “people always want to do more tasks much better, even on the go, whether it is web browsing, email, games, or viewing photos and videos.”

To do all this, Samsung observes, consumers “carry multiple devices, because each device has unique benefits that work best in a particular situation. Therefore, consumers constantly switch devices to use the right device at the right time.”

What’s more, our multi-tasking opens up new opportunities for the stylus. As Samsung sees it: “Even for consumers with multiple smart devices, they still carry around a notepad for writing down ideas.” Connect the dots, and “there is an emerging desire for a primary device for on-the-go use that could consolidate the core tasks of multiple devices as well as recreate the ease and simplicity of using a pen and paper.”

How I See It: I get the logic, but I can’t say I agree with how Samsung has interpreted this in its newest device. There are hundreds or thousands of smartphone and tablet applications that were built to take down our notes. The Siri voice assistant on the iPhone 4S does this effectively using speech recognition and natural language understanding. Personally, I’m happy to leave my stylus days in the past. But I’m also happy to concede that one form factor won’t win the game. Choice is good. By the end of the MWC, there will undoubtedly be many more choices.

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