The Social Identity Debate: It’s About Transparency Not Privacy

The last week in September saw London host Social Media Week; a series of events exploring the social, cultural and economic impact of social media. The aim of Social Media Week is to help people and organisations connect through collaboration, learning and the sharing of ideas and information, concepts that, likewise, underpin the Janrain ethos.

Collaboration sits at the heart of social login; using social identity to create richer, more meaningful and relevant relationships between the consumer and the online brand. However, it is also impossible to have a meaningful conversation about social identity without also considering consumers’ expectations of privacy.

So, we decided to host a public debate titled Collaborating While Blindfolded – to address just that issue during SMW.

The question we wanted to discuss was “If the key to online engagement and collaboration is having insight into your users’ unique characteristics and using that to personalise their experience, can privacy and anonymity be preserved in our increasingly socially connected online experiences?”

A number of customers, prospects and partners joined us at Kettners, a boutique private dining venue in London’s Soho district, to hear Mike Pegman, Lead Security Architect for Universal Credit at the Department for Work & Pensions and Nick Blunden, Global Digital Publisher for The Economist, argue the case for privacy and data sharing respectively.

Some fascinating concepts were raised, with three key take-aways:

  1. Privacy is not about data; it is about the control you as an individual have over your own personal data assets.
  2. Online brands, organisations and marketers within those should support a privacy model, where the default setting should be one of ‘private’ rather than ‘open’
  3. The expectation that consumers have regarding privacy can be far removed from the reality; the real debate around social identity and online collaboration should be around transparency and control, not privacy.

Now this is of particular interest given our most recent announcement – Janrain’s Transparent One-Click Sharing – a feature which puts users in direct control of how they share stories and other content with transparent messaging, the option to turn auto-share on or off at any time, and a countdown timer for auto shares. A direct effort to address key privacy concerns Facebook users – and those participants in our SMW debate – expressed over automatic sharing from social readers.

The pent up demand for online collaboration through social identity management is huge. Customers want a more relevant online experience; they want targeted, timely offers; and they are increasingly appreciating the trade-off between free content available online and their social data assets. And growing numbers actively want to share social information, especially if it will contribute to a better, easier online experience.

However, as the digital economy evolves and matures, what is absolutely key is the establishment of a trust framework that teaches individuals how to best manage their online identity and establishes an ethos of transparency, collaboration indeed, as the key to engagement.

Photo: Chantal Photography