Welcome 2011 – Garbo was on to something: Trends in digital privacy

Happy 2011 to everyone! I’ve been woefully bad at posting blog entries these last few weeks – largely due to preparation for moving across the country – which doesn’t at all mean that I haven’t been noticing trends and connecting dots while taping yet another box.

2010 was a dizzying year on many fronts and I think people are weary on many levels. The economy has consistently stayed slow, wave after wave of corruption has been uncovered, the “war” in the Middle East drags on, and domestic rhetoric increasingly has overtones of a civil war. Panic and fear mongering in the media have added a huge amount of fuel to a fire which was already there, and a natural reaction to all of this is a desire to retrench, to return to comfort. This is about as far from the optimistic forward thinking 1960s as a society can get. People are tired.

One way I think this is being reflected is a trend towards Social Networking fatigue. People left and right seem to have reached their limit of “connecting” and the latest cool thing to be doing is actually cutting back on connections, and being more selective. We’ve taken to social networking with the wide eyed enthusiasm of a child, tasting, testing, and now want to reframe it to suit our own personal needs, which means only interacting with those with whom we share a real connection.

Facebook in particular suffers from being too “mass” and not enough personalization to meet those needs. There is – without extensive paying attention to tweaking – only one way to “connect”; your bff shares the same level of connection as the friend of a friend of a friend who reached out because of one comment you made.

You also kind of know something’s jumped the shark, to use what is no doubt an antiquated phrase, when McDonald’s has a grandmother talking about your Facebook comment and using the phrase “l-o-l-ing” in their radio spot. Junior is going to need a place to talk to their own friends, and Mom and Dad might want to enjoy an off color joke.

Along the same lines, the digital world is increasingly acting like an ancient Greek Hydra: as soon as you reset your FB privacy settings yet again to combat a new default they’ve implemented, another service or problem comes to light. Twitter, for example, on 10/10/2010 agreed with the US government to archive all tweets not deleted within 23 weeks; in other words, everything you’ve ever said – in a heated moment, in reaction, anything, will be permamently stored. For what purpose? Who knows. I can only guess it’s in reaction to some purported anti terrorist BS, where all data is stored so that at some future time if they need some out of context statement to point to it can be dug up.

It’s particularly scary since in social media very few comments are made as stand alones, so taken out of context are sort of like Rorschach tests; the meaning can be twisted to any way necessary.

As a result of all these reasons (and more), I think this is the year when we’ll see a splintering / fragmentation of social networking as a result. Smaller sites that are tailored to the needs of specific groups will spring up and people will use each to fill a different need.

I also think private (closed / high walled) groups will emerge. Along with the rise of “privacy services” – companies who monitor and manage your digital identity. Staying on top of monitoring and actively managing your online persona is extremely time consuming, pretty soon people will be outsourcing it – as they already do with identity protection services like LifeLock etc. If these type of services are not actively looking to move into this space, they should be.

All of this will also lead to the need for cross social networking sites apps; a “Trillian” type of application which will connect multiple social networking services – eliminating the value of each destination url (eg Facebook.com) since these will be a generic supplier of connectivity, while the interface will be the Trillian-type app.

This will also eliminate the barrier to exit for users of FB, which is currently the 800lb gorilla of the social networking sites in the US (not as much in other parts of the world, where Orkut and some others dominate). If it’s invisible to you, the user, which social networking site your friends are using, then loyalty to one or the other won’t be necessary. It will also completely dilute the value of FB. Personally if I were Mark Zuckerberg – man of the year regardless – I’d sell off many, many shares before this inevitability happens.

So, with a nod to Greta, I predict 2011 will be the year of “I vant to be left alone!”

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2 Responses to Welcome 2011 – Garbo was on to something: Trends in digital privacy

  1. Xianne says:

    Made me think twice this morning when I heard about Goldman Sachs investing in Fb. When Big Banks move in I tend to want to move out.
    But, alas! there is nowhere left to go…

  2. Linda says:

    I think this year a number of smaller, limited more tailored options will emerge – and then they do, mass exodus will happen

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