Online Privacy Stories – Tempest In A Teapot?

by Elmer Boutin on May 14, 2010

Vault There has been a lot of talk over the past few weeks about the latest privacy issues with Facebook. To be sure, Facebook does have a number of privacy problems, some of which need to be addressed sooner rather than later. Robert Scoble has a very interesting take on those problems.  There has also been a lot of speculation about large numbers users seeking to delete their accounts.

My question is: does the average Facebook user really care about all this?

Danny Sullivan wrote a great piece about how one web site which has a page describing one goes about deleting their Facebook account. This particular page has seen a great deal of traffic over the past few weeks – reportedly even more than Facebook’s own page on the same topic. Very interesting, indeed.

Danny tried to find out from Facebook how many users they lost during this time. They refused to supply that number, but pointed out their membership grew by 10 million users over the previous month. Even if all 456-someodd-thousand users who viewed the web page mentioned above defected from Facebook, that’s only about 4% of how many users Facebook gained over a similar period. I doubt very much if the leadership at Facebook is really worried about such a small number.

Even amidst Congressional hearings and lots of media coverage, I wonder how much attention the average Facebook user is giving it. I mean, there is a lot of talk among the “geekier” folks I follow, but I wonder how much of this is transferring outside the techie world. It seems to me that the rumors of Facebook charging a subscription fee gets a lot more attention, and a lot more ire, than this.

I similarly wonder about Google’s decision to allow people to opt out of being counted in Google Analytics. There is a lot of talk in the tech world because a great many web sites use Google Analytics to track their web site visitor numbers. Many web administrators and marketers are worried about how much this opt out option will affect the accuracy of their numbers.

While this is a valid concern, I have to wonder how many average web users are going to care about whether they’re being  anonymously (more or less) tracked via Google Analytics? Of those, how many are willing to go through the steps of actually opting out? I’m willing to bet it’ll be a small enough number that it won’t affect too many web sites’ statistical analysis.

These stories are certainly worth watching because there is a possibility web marketing efforts could be greatly affected if “average users” decide in droves to dump Facebook and opt out of Google Analytics. For most of us more than just watching, for now, is premature in my opinion.

What say you, agree or disagree? Please let us know in the comments.

Creative Commons License photo credit: wka

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