Tag Facebook

Privacy and search engines. 1984 was only half right

If you don’t buy the product, you are the product. Or worse. Everything you do is being watched.

My mac alerted me to a new Safari update, today. Nothing too surprising about that. Normally I just wouldn’t care. I don’t use Safari. I use Chrome. But this time I sat up and took notice.

Because this time, that update includes the option to use DuckDuckGo.

Duckduckgo — The search engine that doesn’t track you. A superior search experience with smarter answers, less clutter and real privacy.

Which got me thinking.

Apple really are squaring up against Google. And China.

Both of those take balls of steel. But more of that, they take principles too. Principles of privacy which, at first glance, don’t tally with the pursuit of profit, either.

I don’t want to get too carried away, but we’re at the cusp of an incredibly important time for defining our own individual values, and indeed the values of the world we’re living in, and want our kids to live in.

What is the right balance of privacy v profit in our society?

We all know by now that Tim Cook wrote an open letter about the importance of privacy recently. But it turns out — he really does mean it.

“Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.”

Apple are taking a strong position either to not share, or to not be able to share personal information with third parties including Governments.

Compare that to Google, Facebook, and even Amazon. Where every time you interact with them anywhere (online and increasingly offline) you give them permission to store information about you to help advertisers spend less to get you to buy more in future.

That’s quite some difference in corporate positioning.

In fact it’s fundamental.

Maybe that positioning is how Apple will justify such higher prices for their products and services in future. (Amazon Fire phone for 99cents anyone? Hmmm, I wonder why? Free mobile phone operating system for handset manufacturers anyone? Hmm, I wonder why?), but those principles are also proving costly to them.

Apple still haven’t launched their biggest new product (iPhone6) in the world’s biggest market (China), probably because they can’t/won’t help the Chinese Government decrypt content on IOS8.

The smart money is that China won’t licence them because of that very reason. Yesterday China also blocked duckduckgo.

Some coincidence.

I so want Apple’s privacy statement to kickstart a discussion about how the tech giants (Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook) can and should use our data.

I’m not anti-Google. And I’m not an Apple apologist either. I let Google sniff my gmail accounts all day long. I’m writing this in Chrome. With hindsight, the iCloud hacks were schoolboy error stuff. Apple should have done better.

But there’s some massive principles at stake here. Principles which, as a society we need to discuss and agree to, rather than sleepwalk into acceptance that Google, Facebook, Amazon etc know way more about us than we’d ever want any Government to know.

And I’d love to know how to make that happen.

(originally published on Medium.com)

Google behind the firewall – a reality not a myth

Is Google + finally going to come of age?

I’ve long argued that Google+’s ‘public’ profiles are something of a stalking horse for Google’s more corporate aspirations. And at the end of August, the (former) search engine took another giant leap into offering collaboration and content software for enterprises by launching a set of Google+ features specially for businesses.

The quietly-announced development means that some corporates can formally use some of Google+’s innovative features as part of the suite of Google apps. Group video conferencing (on hangouts) during which teams can share, discuss and edit (google) docs in real-time is now a reality.

The battle-lines are increasingly being drawn for enterprise-level ‘social’ software. Microsoft recently bought Yammer, and IBM has long been active, along with Salesforce and Jive and a number of other players. It’s only a matter of time before Facebook makes a play in this financially-lucrative market.

The days of organisations being tied down to using what came bundled with Microsoft Office are drawing to an end.

And the days of organisations starting to build communications networks structured around the ways that people actually like to communicate are beginning.

Enterprise social networks – Facebook inside the Firewall

As increasing numbers of businesses consider whether (and how) to apply social networks across their enterprise – how to take the best bits of Facebook and Google+ behind the firewall – and whether to use off-the-shelf (e.g. Yammer), customisable (Jive) or bespoke (e.g. IBM/Lotus) platforms to deliver it, this deckfrom Altimeter’s Charlene Li summarises some of the key objetives, and outcomes as noted by the relative early adopters in this space. All of the businesses interviewed have 250+ employees, but some of the conclusions are drawn from a sample of only 40 or so – so illustrative at this stage rather than definitive. Having said that – there are clear themes emerging from the US-based research:

  • The key objectives cited are: sharing of best practice/increased collaboration, followed by ‘supporting a transformation of the business/evolving the company culture‘ (my italics – I’m increasingly interested in link between culture and tools, and also business architecture)
  • Over half of those surveyed deployed an enterprise social network across the whole business, rather than across specific departments from day 1
  • While most respondents can claim better and faster collaboration, significant use and adoption, relatively few are (yet) seeing this translate into hitting business goals

The deck (indeed Charlene’s blog and books) are well worth reading…

Social business predictions for 2012 – part two

People will get bored of brands on Facebook

Asking people to click ‘like’ if they’ve had a good weekend, or simply not responding to the hundreds of comments on a question a brand asks is only going to work for so long before people start to realise the shallowness of many of the “relationships” they have. Brands are going to have to work harder than ever before to cut through. This is a massive opportunity for Google+ – a platform where people already have a ‘functional’ relationship with a brand, and where expectations for an ‘emotional’ relationship are close to non-existant.


Google+ will take off slowly but surely

Just before Christmas G+ saw its first page (Britney Spears, natch) clock over 1 million fans. The only way is up. Google will factor G+ pages into search results worldwide, the platform will improve, and more brands (and people) will start to see the potential for two-way targeted (by circle) communications which Facebook will never be able to deliver.

We’re right to be concerned about the monopoly of power Google will have. Facebook will soon roll out ‘frictionless’ contact – the long and short of which is that both companies will shortly be gathering even more data on how we all spend time online. Talking of which…


Just as every year since the start of this social revolution (whenever that was), we’re moving further into an era of radical transparency

Organisations will be more critically judged on how they behave, how they function behind closed doors, and how they treat customers and employees, not just by what they say. Brands cannot spin their way out of a crisis. They have to behave differently. If people like what you’re doing, you’ll be popular and drive repeat business. If they don’t, they won’t. Just look at the Qantas backlash last year…

As Facebook becomes Myspace, Google+ becomes Facebook for brands

I’ve been mulling over implications of the recent Facebook f8 news, and the imminent arrival of brands on Google+ recently, and I think we’re about to see a fundamental shift in what both social networks get used for.

Facebook is going to be all about richer and deeper relationships with fewer people, leaving Google+ to work fantastically for brands. And here’s why…

Much has been written about Facebook’s changes, but I think, that at the heart of them Facebook is planning to be an entertainment hub, with ‘real’ relationships at its heart. I think they’ve realised that the one thing people will pay for is shared experiences, where people connect on an emotional level. It’s why people go to the theatre or gigs together with friends. And Facebook’s recently announced partnerships with film, music and media brands bring ‘watercooler’ conversations into realtime – building on their experiences partnering news networks during major events.

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Google+ will be 10 times better than it is now

After a bit of playing around with Google+ I thought a quick post was in order. Not a post about how good it is now – it’s not that good because brands aren’t yet on it, and people aren’t yet getting the most out of it – but a post about how good it’s going to be. And how big a threat to the corporate firewall.

Many people have been quick to fawn over the functionality of G+. Indeed, it takes the best bits of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Stumbleupon and search, and melds them all together in one product. A product that takes significant amounts of time to set up effectively. But a product which is built bottom up because it’s borne out of an organisation which has had more than it’s fair share of run ins with regulators – and unlike Facebook – has learned from them.

But we’ve yet to really see Google+’s real game-changing functionality. How it’s going to be tweaked and adapted for corporates.

Yes, Dell are already (although slightly illicitly) using G+’s video hangout functionality for customer service, and Ford have got the only authorised “test” corporate account, but most organisations, including thousands of frustrated Google Apps users like me, won’t be able to use G+ for a month or two yet as Google put the finishing touches to the product.

But when it is rolled out, here are a few predictions of how it will be adapted.

  • Social CRM will be baked in. The concept of circles is staggering in its simplicity. The ability to send different messages to different groups of people (from super-advocates or different cohorts of customers to prospective employees will soon become the centrepiece of many organisations’ Comms campaigns. It will certainly give email-based CRM programmes a run for their money.
  • Google Analytics will be baked in. Exactly the same tools which millions of web masters already rely on, will be embedded in a corporate-owned social network, providing instant read-across showing exactly which pieces of activity (paid search v social links) generate the best ROI. (Of course, in the short term this might harm Google, as people shift budget from search to social, but in the long term it keeps people on the Google-owned platforms).
  • Customer service via video hangouts will become second nature. It will be resource hungry, but effective.
  • Organisations will have to rewrite their social media guidelines. Facebook’s sharing functionality undoubtedly acted as a catalyst for generation Y’s increasing willingness to share, and despite Microsoft’s best intentions, Sharepoint just doesn’t cut it. G+ makes it so easy to share work things with colleagues and groups of colleagues via a non-firewall-protected message, that it’s going to be increasingly hard to stop people doing just that.
    • From an individual’s perspective – Why should I bother with email when I can use circles? That way everything I share will be relevant and nicely searchable.
    • From a company’s perspective – How can we get around the fact that employees will be distributing sensitive information via an organisation which makes its money from serving ads based on the keywords it sniffs as it distributes that information.
  • Google Plus will be wrapped up within Apps as a highly tempting solution for organisations. Building a firewall-protected version for corporations to deploy has to be on Google’s agenda, surely.

I could go on. But I won’t. Not here, anyway. But I will return to the subject in due course – if only to see how many (if any) of these predictions come true…

Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer in London

Sheryl Sandberg is an SF .com veteran. She was in London this week, speaking at the LSE’s Polis lecture series.

One of Google’s first 250 employees, and and now number two to Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook she made a decent-enough case to suggest that her career is mirroring the way the web is changing, before getting a bit shmaltzy for my liking… Anyway, to sum up the thread of her talk:

The internet used to be all about finding information. It was the information web. But it was largely anonymous.

But now, it’s all about real identity and personalisation. It’s the social web. We’ve moved from information retrieval to social discovery.

She’s right, and that’s exactly why Facebook is in the ascendancy at the moment.

Microsoft grew by helping the world access the internet.
Google grew by helping the world find things on the internet.
Facebook grew by helping people maintain and develop real-world relationships on the internet.

And Facebook is growing phenomenally fast, as we all know.

She said that the average UK user spends 7 hours per month on Facebook.
15 million people friend each other every day
50 million people like a page each day [not 150 million as Brand Republic originally reported]

Now I’m wary of Facebook. The privacy settings are a nightmare. And if a Western Government had access to as much data about what we all like/think/say/do there’d be outcry. But because Zuck is (currently) a relatively benign dictator, no one really seems to bat an eyelid.

But when businesses start to see staff using Facebook as a communications channel to share commercial information (it is better than email for that, so it’s only a matter of time), I’m sure there will be a backlash. I might even be kicking it off.

It was an interesting session. Nothing new. She’s a very competent public speaker, safe handler of media questions (particularly about the smearing issue), and probably the closest I’ll get to an almost-billionaire I’ll get for a while.

[more coverage on the Telegraph, WSJ, Brand Republic and Joanne Jacobs’ liveblog)

What’s the value of a ‘friend’ on Facebook?

“If I tell my Facebook friends about your product, it’s not because I like your product.

It’s because I like my friends.”

There’s a lot of research which purports to work out the ‘value’ of Facebook friends to brands. It’s virtually all rubbish because the value of a ‘fan’ or a ‘friend’ also depends on the relationship between those friends, degrees of influence and nuance which no algorithm currently picks up.

Yes – someone who ‘likes’ a brand on Facebook is probably more likely to talk positively about it, and even spend more money on that brand (Brian Solis quoted an average of $253 spent on Starbucks by Facebook fans) but researchers who talk generically about the value of a Facebook fan being $4 or $400 don’t really have a clue.

The value is one of a long-term relationship, which is just too complicated to be boiled down to a numeric figure.

(p.s. I’m a fan of Starbucks on Facebook because I’m intrigued as to how they use the channel. But will cross the road to avoid their coffee compared to a Cafe Nero)