When the App is Free, You are the Product. Swipe Buster Brings a New Level of Reality

How often to we blithely click “ACCEPT” on the terms and conditions of a new website or app, hungry to explore the digital domain before us? How often do we happily hand over personal information without a second thought?

In the world of social media, it is claimed that we have come to a grudging acceptance that the utility of platforms like Facebook or Twitter far outweighs the cost to our privacy. But is this true? Is it simply the case that we have not yet experienced the full impact of our decisions? Sure we have advertising. Targeting. Remarketing. Automation and nurturing. And more.

But what happens when our private information is available at a fee. To any buyer?

New app, Swipe Buster now lets you find out if someone is using the dating app Tinder. You could, for example, enter your partner’s details – and for $5 tap the Tinder API to reveal the answer. Of course, you could also use Swipe Buster for more mischievous purposes.


In this world of ever increasing transparency, privacy and cyber security is becoming a hotter and hotter topic. I have said previously that cyber security is now part of your brand – but it goes further than this. HOW you choose to commercialise “your” data can radically impact the lives of your customers.

There is no doubt that “we” are the product being sold across an infinite web of social connections. In aggregate this may not worry us too much. But as more of these kind of platforms emerge, seeking to monetise the vast data in storage, we may well regret our decision to accept those terms and conditions.

And those businesses that have built their valuations on public trust may find them suddenly friendless.

How to Make a Privacy Complaint

When Disruptor’s Handbook and Constellation Research hosted an evening meetup recently for the Australian launch of Ray Wang’s Disrupting Digital Business book, we were hoping to get some conversation going amongst the audience. We talked all manner of disruption – from innovation to technology, big data to marketing – and everywhere in between. But it wasn’t until we hit the topic of Privacy that debate really kicked off.

It was all in. Twenty or thirty of Australia’s leading business innovators held forth in open debate. And after an hour or so, we realised we’d only scratched the surface. There was plenty more work to be done.

And while there were contrasting views and concerns, one thing was clear. We are all now subject to much greater openness – and therefore at risk of some part of our privacy being compromised. So what are we to do?

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has created a great video to explain.

One Privacy Act to Rule them All

Reform to Australia’s Privacy legislation began in 2004 – and as of tomorrow, 12 March 2014, there will be a raft of changes to the way in which our privacy is regulated. The Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, provides a high level of overview of the changes in this video.

Australian Privacy Principles

The changes that come into effect tomorrow, include a set of 13 new harmonised privacy principles that regulate the handling of personal information by Australian and Norfolk Island Government agencies and some private sector organisations. These replace the national privacy principles and the information privacy principles that were previously in place. In particular, the following principles apply to marketers:

  • Direct marketing: Australian Privacy Principle 7 (APP7) relates to direct marketing. Where you hold personal information about an individual, this principle covers the manner in which that information can be used (or not) for direct marketing purposes
  • Cross-border disclosure of personal information: Australian Privacy Principle 8 (APP8) covers the sharing of personal information with an overseas entity. This will apply where you are capturing or sharing information with overseas providers.

Who do the APP apply to?

The short answer is government agencies and organisations with over $3 million in annual turnover – but be sure and check the details:

The APPs cover the collection, use, disclosure and storage of personal information. They allow individuals to access their personal information and have it corrected if it is incorrect. There are also separate APPs that deal with the use and disclosure of personal information for the purpose of direct marketing (APP 7), cross-border disclosure of personal information (APP 8) and the adoption, use and disclosure of government related identifiers (APP 9).

The APPs generally apply to Australian and Norfolk Island government agencies and also to private sector organisations with an annual turnover of $3 million or more. These entities are known as ‘APP entities’. In addition, the APPs will apply to some private sector organisations with an annual turnover of less than $3 million, such as health service providers. More information is available on the Who is covered by privacy and the Privacy Topics — Business pages.

The APP checklist

What has changed and what do you need to review?

Take a look at the Privacy Act Reform Checklists for organisations (yes, that’s you if you run a business with turnover > $3 million) and government agencies.

Get reviewing now

Remember, the changes come into effect tomorrow. So you’d best get started on that review ASAP!

Private Area Grant Hutchinson via Compfight

When Big and Data got together, it was love at first Like

Breathless. Heart beating. We all know the feeling. It’s all heart, feeling, emotion. We’re waiting for the brain to kick in – but there is no relief. It’s really a sign of madness.

Love is merely a madness: and, I tell you, deserves as
as well a dark house and a whip, as madmen do: and the
reason why they are not so punished and cured, is, that
the lunacy is so ordinary, that the whippers are in love too.
— Shakespeare, As You Like It, 3.2

But these days, meeting and falling in love is not just a physical thing. It’s virtual … and played out on social networks.


The Facebook data science team has been digging through the mountains of interactions that take place between people before, during and after they fall in love. They looked in detail at the number of posts exchanged going back to 100 days before the “couple” changed their relationship status from “single”. What they found was that social media interaction plays an important role in the formation of the relationship:

When the relationship starts (“day 0”), posts begin to decrease. We observe a peak of 1.67 posts per day 12 days before the relationship begins, and a lowest point of 1.53 posts per day 85 days into the relationship. Presumably, couples decide to spend more time together, courtship is off, and online interactions give way to more interactions in the physical world.

And this is where big data gets interesting. We are now starting to see digital traces of behaviours that have real world impacts. The things that we do and say online can be correlated across thousands of data points to reveal actions that take place in our so-called “real lives”. But where does it go from here?

  • Social lifestyle mapping: Facebook (and other collectors of big data) can map and improve personas, track shifts and changes in community trends and lifestyles over time
  • Predictive targeting: With social lifestyle mapping in place, algorithms can be used to predictively target individuals and groups with relevant information. This could take the form of advertising, public health messaging/recommendations, career suggestions and so on. In fact, the possibilities are endless
  • Location awareness: As a large number of Facebook interactions take place on mobile devices, location awareness can add a greater degree of relevance to any of these predictive or realtime offers.

High level barriers:

There are some immediate barriers to usefulness that spring to mind:

  • Brands are slow to catch and embrace technology innovation: Facebook (and indeed Google) have a great deal of work ahead to prepare brands and governments for the power and opportunity that this presents. Thus far we’ve seen precious little in the way of focused education and leadership in this area and without it, organisations simply won’t be prepared (or interested) in this
  • Organisations lag in digital transformation: For these opportunities to be embraced, most organisations have to undertake digital transformation activities. Ranging from change management and education to strategy, business system overhauls and process improvement, digital transformation is the only way to unlock organisation-wide value – but few are seriously committed to such a program
  • Privacy is shaping up as a contested business battleground: Many governments, corporations and individuals fervently hang on to notions of pre-internet era privacy. Laws and regulations have struggled to keep pace with the changes taking place in our online behaviours. Meanwhile public and private organisations are conflicted in their use of, protection and interest in privacy. We’ll need to work through this to understand whether privacy really is dead.

Love´s in the air!! Muuuitos corações!!!! erika k via Compfight

Coming Soon to a Google Ad -> You

A couple of years back, Facebook changed their terms of service that allowed your images to start appearing in contextual advertisements offered across the social network. More recently, they announced plans to remove a feature that allows people to prevent their names being found in search results. This means that those using Facebook can now be found by strangers (or by past friends, lovers, enemies) simply by using Facebook’s internal search tool.

Facebook explained that this feature was only being used by a small percentage of people. However, it’s a part of what seems to be an ongoing test-and-learn experiment about how much private information its 1.1 billion users are willing to share. Earlier this year, Facebook’s Graph Search revealed just how big “big data” can be – with over 500 terabytes of new data being produced each day. And based on their recent earnings announcements, that big data/privacy play is paying off – with revenue up 53% over the previous year.

And now, Google are following a similar path, tapping into all your reviews, recommendations and endorsements in their search results and advertisements. You probably noticed that Google provided a top of screen notification about changes to their terms of service a couple of days ago. If you waved it away without investigating, here is the section most relevant to you:

We want to give you – and your friends and connections – the most useful information. Recommendations from people you know can really help. So your friends, family and others may see your Profile name and photo, and content like the reviews you share or the ads you +1’d. This only happens when you take an action (things like +1’ing, commenting or following) – and the only people who see it are the people you’ve chosen to share that content with.

This new policy that comes into effect on 11 November 2013 will show shared endorsements on Google sites and on more than two million sites that use the Google display advertising network. What will this look like? In the sample image below from the Google Support blog, your friend’s recommendations/ratings appear in Google places, search results and ads.


You can, however, opt out of this system, but there is a catch – you need to have a Google+ account.

Simply follow THIS LINK to Google Endorsements and uncheck the box and click the Save button.

This may well give Google+ membership a much needed shot in the arm. Or it may just increase the cynicism of the internet using public. But if the lessons from Facebook’s privacy test-and-learn approach is anything to go by, it will slip by largely unheeded and little understood – with Google claiming the benefits of your personal recommendations.

Eye I. By Thomas TolkienCreative Commons License Thomas Tolkien via Compfight

Reduce Marketing Risk with ADMA’s Compliance Hub

With recent changes to Australia’s privacy legislation, marketers now face a slew of regulatory responsibilities or risk significant fines of up to $1.1 million. Marketers and advertisers have been given 15 months to comply with the recent changes – and the Association for data-driven marketing and advertising (ADMA) has launched the ADMA Compliance Hub to assist in the process.

Part of the ADMA Knowledge Lab, the site contains:

  • News and updates
  • Video and whitepapers
  • Categorised forms, best practices
  • Webinars and guides

ADMA Compliance Hub

Covering a broad range of marketing compliance topics, the Compliance Hub is a welcome resource for time poor marketers. A quick review of the Online, Mobile & Social section revealed checklists for cloud computing, a group buying code of conduct and a model social media policy. And while the data and privacy section is top of mind for Australian marketers at present, sections on competitions, voice and email will come in handy as 2013 marketing activity shifts into high gear.

For companies new to the Australian marketplace, the Compliance Hub will be a welcome resource. Access is available to all advertisers and marketers until February 2013 – and then it will be closed off and available only to ADMA members.

Digital Citizens – Rethink Privacy

When we first join social networking sites such as Facebook, we enthusiastically create our profile, pouring personal data into fields, checkboxes and personal pages. We join “networks”, add “applications”, play “quizzes” and upload photos. What we may not realise is that with every click, every upload and every game/quiz interaction, we are contributing to a rich underlying “social graph” that maps our profiles – our likes, interests, locations and preferences. The most amazing thing is that we do this voluntarily.

If a telemarketer was to call you and ask you for these details, would you so readily hand them over?

Facebook’s Open Graph

Over the last couple of weeks there has been plenty of discussion around Facebook and the changes that they have made to the privacy settings. To me it felt like Facebook was Pulling a Swifty. The new Open Graph API clearly changes the game – by exposing your underlying data to affiliated websites who can then use this information to provide targeted information, goods, services (read advertising) straight into your browser/mobile device.

Some have proposed an exodus from Facebook on May 31. Matt Milan and Joseph Dee’s Quit Facebook Day is a rallying point for those who are not only disgruntled with Facebook’s lack of concern about user data/privacy, but are willing to act on it. As they say:

For us it comes down to two things: fair choices and best intentions. In our view, Facebook doesn't do a good job in either department. Facebook gives you choices about how to manage your data, but they aren't fair choices, and while the onus is on the individual to manage these choices, Facebook makes it damn difficult for the average user to understand or manage this. We also don't think Facebook has much respect for you or your data, especially in the context of the future.

Being a Digital Citizen and Diaspora

For me, this is the important point. Whether we like it or not, we are now “digital citizens”. We are active, engaged participants online – but citizenry has rights and obligations. The vast majority of us are not comfortable working through the 17 steps to improving our Facebook privacy. It’s complicated. But just because it is complicated and/or confusing, doesn’t mean that we choose to opt-in.

Danah Boyd in Facebook and Radical Transparency eloquently sums up the challenge and the frustration:

The key to addressing this problem is not to say “public or private?” but to ask how we can make certain people are 1) informed; 2) have the right to chose; and 3) are consenting without being deceived …

What pisses me off the most are the numbers of people who feel trapped. Not because they don’t have another choice. (Technically, they do.) But because they feel like they don’t. They have invested time, energy, resources, into building Facebook what it is. They don’t trust the service, are concerned about it, and are just hoping the problems will go away. It pains me how many people are living like ostriches. If we don’t look, it doesn’t exist, right?? This isn’t good for society.

A group of developers have seized on this opportunity to rethink community, personal data and ownership – and have announced their intention to create a privacy aware, personally controlled, distributed, open source social network. Called Diaspora, it promises much. Within days, the team have been able to use the Kickstarter website to raise over 1700% of their required project budget from more than 5000 individual sponsors.

Reclaim Your Privacy

But what EXACTLY is this data and what does it look like? Just check out the way Facebook handles “social advertising” – where YOUR photos and name can appear in advertisements targeting your friends. Have you adjusted the setting to say No one?

ReclaimPrivacy.org have created a neat button that will show you more precisely the data that you have open. Simply drag their Scan for Privacy button to the toolbar on your browser, login to Facebook and click the button.


As you can see, I have a few settings myself that I need to change. In fact, I am going a step further – removing a whole range of personal data, photos, information and so on.

I am considering establishing a new, isolated personal account with links to a dedicated email address. I would use this to manage the pages that I am responsible for – but little else.

A Flash in the Pan?

You may ask yourself – so what. You may feel that there is a fair exchange between you and Facebook – that you get value and give away little. If so, then you are clearly one of the digital citizens who are operating with a greater level of knowledge.

But is this a flash in the pan? Will this small pocket of resistance dissipate?

The volatile nature of social networks means that businesses – large and small – can no longer put their head in the sand. A small issue can be amplified by even a handful of activists. Sure, there may only be a few thousand people indicating that they will be deleting their Facebook account … but how many millions are these people connected to? What is the network of their social graph? What is the potential impact of a wave forming and breaking over the Facebook wall?

Clearly Facebook head of public policy, Tim Saparani, realises where this may go. This article in Wired, announcing that Facebook is to launch simplistic privacy choices soon, signals some level of awareness.

The proposed changes are unlikely to reverse the company’s December decision to make large portions of a user’s profile into “publicly available information” — which means even if you hide the fact you support a gun rights organization in your profile settings, that’s still findable online.

Will it stop the exodus? Has it impacted our sense of trust in Facebook? And what does it mean for brands who are edging ever deeper into Facebook as a social engagement platform? Is this strategy putting brand investment at risk?

At this point it comes down to personal preference and personal awareness. Which way will you be leaning?

Genealogy, Streetview and Public-Private Histories

Over the last month or so I have begun researching my family tree. It’s a fascinating research project that involves matching names with stories and stories with memories. It combines official government records with personal letters, and certificates with box brownie photos. I have been amazed at what I have been able to find – and how many traces my ancestors left as they lived their lives.

Of course, the ease with which I can find historical data relies on the digitisation efforts of various government departments around the world as well as what must be massive projects undertaken by various private businesses such as Ancestry.com and Genes Reunited who provide scans of various records from electoral rolls to immigration/passenger lists. All this is bolstered by the work of volunteers who manage local historical groups or genealogical societies – producing books, databases and websites.

One of the most interesting pieces of information that I found relates to my grandmother, June. She died when I was about 12 but looms large in my memory. I wanted to delve deeper than the more generic official records would allow. And when I happened across an electoral roll record for her – I was intrigued. What would her daily life look like? What did the streets look like in her day – and how different are they now?

Public school, Pyrmont, SydneyThen I remembered that the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney has an extensive collection of historical photos available on Flickr. I trawled through the Tyrell Collection, seeking images of Pyrmont from the 1900s, finding a great image of the local public school. Surely she would have walked past this building as a young woman.

But what of her home? I had heard that a large number of buildings were demolished during the early 20th Century. Bubonic plague, poor sanitation and redevelopment had seen many neighbourhoods razed to the ground. Perhaps her house had 434 Wattle St Pyrmontbeen one of them. On the off chance, I put the address into Google – perhaps there was a story captured somewhere that was relevant. Useful. But it was Google Streetview that made my eyes pop. Clearly this was the house that she had shared with her brothers, mother and sisters – crammed together in Pyrmont.

It made me wonder. We are already sharing so much of our lives online – in a readily accessible, searchable format. In a way, we are self-documenting our lives for future generations. They won’t need archaeologists to dig through layers of sediment to determine what we ate – they’ll be able to read our Twitterstream. My descendents will be able to trace my movements via Foursquare, cross match it to my blog posts and learn about my friends and acquaintances via Facebook.

Our private histories are – with a small effort – open book stories ready to be pieced together by anyone willing to make the effort. From a family history point of view, this is fantastic. It is also a continuum that began hundreds of years ago. After all, I have now seen NSW Governor Darling’s handwritten script permitting the marriage of my fourth great grandmother to a man transported to a convict colony for life. I have seen the signed ticket of leave granting their freedom, and I have seen the X which is the mark signifying their consent to marriage.

In the torrent of life and the every flowing tides of history, sometimes these stories are the only things that anchor us – to our past and our present. And for many of us, the trivialities that we share – a coffee spot, a “tweetup”, a funny website or link – contain not just banality, but the full emotional force that carries across time and space. And this, perhaps, is what “social” media is really all about.