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Privacy Trends and 3 Ways Small Business Can Respond

This week it was widely reported that Mozilla-owned web browser Firefox is switching its default search engine from Google to Yahoo.  Seen by many as a win for Yahoo (though not a significant loss for Google) it has also been suggested in this report by NPR’s Marketplace that it may be more values-based, and that privacy concerns could have played a role. According to the report, Yahoo has promised to honor Mozilla’s “do not track” policy, based on the company’s founding principles that “individuals’ security and privacy on the Internet are fundamental and must not be treated as optional.”

2014 has been a big year for privacy concerns. From the consternation at the beginning of the year around the Facebook research which manipulated some users’ news feeds to Uber’s recent PR stumble regarding its own privacy policies – which has led them to hire a privacy ‘czar’ – it feels like we have reached a privacy tipping point. As we all know, we now live in a hyper-connected world where, through our own volition, we authorize location-based services on our smartphones, we ‘check-in’ to places on social media, we lay out our whole career history on LinkedIn, we backup our devices in the cloud. As the investigative reporter and online privacy expert Julia Angwin noted in this interview, “there’s a price you pay for living in the modern world – you share your data.”

As I wrote in a recent blog post, it is down to us as advertisers to treat our access to our audiences as a privilege and earn trust by being very clear both on how we use and collect information and how people can opt-out of things like emails and location-based advertising. Looking at it from the other side, it’s important that we are aware of what we can do to maintain a fruitful and active online presence, without compromising our privacy. Here are a few tools to help do that in both our personal and professional lives.

1. Go niche. If you feel a little overwhelmed, or under-served by sites like LinkedIn, you’ll be pleased to know a number of industry-specific networks are cropping up, such as Procurious which is aimed at people in the supply-chain and procurement businesses. In healthcare for example, 40% of all US doctors are now on Doximity.

2. Try a new Facebook – Ello. This invite-only social media site is in many ways the anti-Facebook. Its manifesto states that a social network is “not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate – but a place to connect, create and celebrate life. You are not a product.” This ethos appears to be resonating intensely: since launching in September, it has approximately 1 million members with a further 2 million on the waiting list. With its invite-only stance and strong hipster vibe, it – and purposefully it seems – is not for everyone. The company recently received $5.5 million in VC funding.

3. Consult an expert. As SMBs, we’re used to wearing many hats, but understanding the risks and benefits of cloud computing beyond the basics is just something I, for one, don’t have the time to do. It is however, worth taking the time to research an IT security company with specific small business expertise to protect both your company and your clients.


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