Posts Tagged ‘privacy concerns’


Gmail Changes = Time to Revisit Your Online Settings

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Gmail changes Google plus security privacy settings Ellis Friedman BurrellesLuce Fresh IdeasThink you’re anonymous online and your Gmail account is confidential? Think again. Last Thursday Google announced changes to Gmail that will allow someone to email you at your Gmail address even if they don’t know that address, as long as both of you are Google Plus and Gmail users. Even better: this capability will be enabled automatically, and requires manual opt-out (and here’s how to do that).

On its official blog, Gmail frames the change as allowing you to “reach the people you know more easily.” Of course, if you don’t actually know the person, this does away with one more layer of protection from your email and effectively integrates Google Plus and Gmail into one messaging service. The flip side is that this could make it even easier to network with other industry figures or potential clients whose email address you’ve forgotten to note, but it seems like a lot of changes and automations actually leave more room for breach of privacy than ever before.

Aside from getting emails from people you don’t know – and maybe don’t want emailing you – there may be more worries with Google Plus’s automation, as in the December case of a man arrested for violating a restraining order taken out by his ex-girlfriend because he sent her an email to join Google Plus. The catch? He says he didn’t send it – Google did, and he didn’t know about it. It’s not clear whether that’s what actually happened, but Google’s automatic invitations have caused ire for some years.

Though the aforementioned incident occurred before Gmail’s announcement last week, the takeaway for PR pros is to never assume that automation by default works in favor of your privacy. And PR pros, who tend to have prolific breadth in their social media and online accounts, must be extra cautious with their social presence.

So take this as a New Year’s reminder to take a few minutes and review the settings and privacy on all your social media accounts. And always make sure you or someone on your team closely monitors changes made to social media, search, and email platforms – you don’t want to have to jump into crisis mode over a preventable online slip-up.

The Market Speaks

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Gail Nelson
It’s Tuesday, and in my role as a consumer, I am feeling very empowered. And it feels … good.iStock_Communication_Small

Amid privacy concerns, Facebook is turning off its controversial Beacon service, which tells one’s friends about your purchases. You may recall the brouhaha that ensued when Beacon was launched. (A synopsis: By default, data about the online purchasing habits of Facebook users were automatically shared with other members of their network, and it was near impossible to opt-out if you didn’t catch a single fleeting pop-up window. Responding to consumer protest, Facebook made Beacon an opt-in program within weeks of launch. But in the end, many pundits supported the inevitably of this direction – a way for social networks to make money and marketers to capitalize on an automated form of word-of-mouth marketing.)

Now, due to privacy lawsuits, the entire program has been dismantled, and Facebook will pay $ 9.5 million in settlement charges, some of which will fund a new privacy foundation. (Read  “Facebook To Wind Down Beacon to Resolve Privacy Lawsuit” on MediaPost.)

T-Mobile joins Facebook in learning the hard way that it doesn’t pay to force customers to do what they don’t want to do, even if it’s the “right thing.” With consumer adoption of paperless invoices stalling, T-Mobile decided to charge for the privilege of receiving a hard-copy bill beginning in August. The new policy applied to new and existing clients.  At first, the program seemed to be a smashing success. After months of sluggish conversion rates spurred by voluntary “go green” marketing programs, requests for electronic invoicing exploded. (See The New York Times article, “What if People Don’t Take the Bait to Go Paperless?”)  But after a class-action lawsuit spearheaded by disgruntled clients asserted that the mandatory charge was a “material modification” to T-Mobile’s contract, T-Mobile rescinded the program.

I can understand T-Mobile’s interest in curbing paper invoicing. The paper, ink, and fossil fuels used in producing and sending paper invoices degrade the environment. Saving on the cost of mailings, especially in these tough economic times, allow businesses to hold the line on pricing, reduce the need for layoffs, and fund new products and services. But today’s consumer will use every tool at their disposal to avoid being strong-armed. These days, you need to talk to your customers, and get most of them on board, before you change policies.  

The T-Mobile situation caught my eye because we have a situation analogous to theirs: After BurrellesLuce’s “go green with paperless billing” marketing campaign had penetrated as far as it could, Client Services (CS) began to reach out to each of our clients (much in the same way both our CS and Sales teams  had done a couple of years ago when we launched a “turnkey copyright compliance” program so PR and communications could legally share their online news clips.) Anyway, as a result, in just a few months, the percentage of clients receiving electronic bills has jumped from less than 20 percent to almost 90 percent. Most of the change was the result of dialogue.

What do you think? Could the T-Mobile and Facebook initiatives have succeeded had they been implemented differently?  As a public relations professional, how would you advise Facebook and T-Mobile to proceed? And as a consumer and a citizen, what do you think of the role of lawsuits in changing the behaviors of these companies?