In today’s episode, we debate the difference between online privacy and online anonymity. It seems we may have the 2 confused in today’s culture. Where does privacy end and anonymity begin? And how does all of it affect us as advertisers? We discuss the difference between privacy and anonymity, the “Big Brother” fear that drives us to desire these things, and how maybe the lack of anonymity is a good thing.
Top 2 Curtain Pulls in this episode:
- Understand the difference between Data Security and Privacy We often say one but mean the other, and in reality what most Americans are fearful of is the security of their data. Stories of stolen identities are pervasive these days, driving many to desire anonymity online and in real life. Privacy does not mean anonymity, and what we need to have is an awareness of the overreach that is innately linked to all those “Terms & Conditions” contracts that we never read.
- There is no “Golden Rule” of Privacy online. There is no objective Privacy Truth. So it’s up to us to learn from our history, to maintain that balance of power and ensure that it does not go unchecked. We need to be protected in a reasonable way, to have a strong awareness of what data we’re giving up and when. It’s up to us to decide how privacy plays a role in our lives online.
For more tips, discussion, and behind the scenes:
About The Guys:
Bob Hutchins: Founder of BuzzPlant, a digital agency that he ran from from 2000-2017. He is also the author of 3 books. More on Bob:
Brad Ayres: Founder of Anthem Republic, an award-winning ad agency. Brad’s knowledge has led some of the biggest brands in the world. Originally from Detroit, Brad is an OG in the ad agency world and has the wisdom and scars to prove it. Currently that knowledge is being applied to his boutique agency. More on Brad:
Ken Ott: Co-Founder and Chief Growth Rebel of Metacake, an Ecommerce Growth Team for some of the world’s most influential brands with a mission to Grow Brands That Matter. Ken is also an author, speaker, and was nominated for an Emmy for his acting on the Metacake Youtube Channel (not really). More on Ken:
[2:08] Bob introduces today’s episode by catching us up on some recent news. There’s a lot of buzz on the internet about privacy, with names like Facebook, Google, and Apple duking it out over privacy rights. There are those in the government that are sick of the games, and there is a lot of validity to that frustration. As individuals we have a lot of information about ourselves online, and we don’t know where that information begins and ends. Most people are trying to fight for anonymity- which is near impossible on the internet.
[3:59] Bob states his opinion regarding this argument. “If we’re going to engage and function with other human beings, online or offline… if I go out in public and I do these things (go to the grocery store, etc) then I give up certain rights and freedoms to enjoy that luxury and that benefit that I get.”
[5:18] Brad asks “Do you think more Americans have this philosophically deep charge that the government, the world doesn’t need to know who I am?” He tells us about a client in Romania, where they are more used to their privacy being infringed upon by the government in their daily lives. They are not as concerned about who has their data and what’s being done with it, because they already assume ALL of their information is out there and out of their control.
- China recently launched a new digital currency that will allow them to know every single charge of every person in their country.
[7:17] Bob challenges anyone who might say “Wow China is awful for doing that,” saying that here in the US we basically do the same thing every time we swipe a credit card, it’s just not a centralized source of information.
[7:47] Bob helps us define privacy, for the sake of clarity in today’s discussion. There is a difference between data security and privacy, in that the overreach isn’t innately a bad thing but not having an awareness of that overreach is the problem. His definition basically says “Don’t bother me, leave me alone. Don’t invade my space.”
[9:45] Bob continues, saying that consumers must have an awareness of what they’re signing up for when agreeing to terms and conditions. It’s really no different than entering into a mutual agreement with a grocery store. You walk in, get what you need, pay with cash or a digital payment method, and in exchange the grocery store keeps a record of your receipt and what you purchased for their own inventory and stock purposes. Downloading an app or singing up for a “free” service online isn’t ever really free.
[12:35] Ken says that some people view privacy as essentially wanting to be invisible. But that’s not how things work in this physical reality- we’re all human beings and we can’t be invisible. In fact, if any of us could potentially walk down the street with invisibility there is a lot we could get away with and a lot of trouble we could create. Having a physical identity in this world keeps us all in check, and that goes a lot deeper than just a government ID.
[13:39] Ken continues, “My point is, on the internet- that kind of happened right? We have the ability to be invisible, we can bully people, we conceal stuff…” So in a lot of ways, complete privacy and anonymity are actually really unhealthy.
[14:59] Bob tells us about a psychological term called the online disinhibition effect that means when we go online we become a different person, which helps to further disengage us from the ramifications of what we are saying and doing online.
[16:10] Brad asks “Do you think that this privacy is different for different generations?” For example, would younger generations have a different grasp on internet privacy and not mind as much overreach, where older generations don’t think about the ramifications of posting on your vacation and letting the world know that your house is empty.
[19:45] Bob “I think online privacy means you don’t want someone hacking into your account and taking your stuff. In other words, it’s the opposite of being left alone.”
[20:48] Brad talks about privacy from a uniquely American perspective. There is a greater and deeper fear for a lot of people in the US that there is a larger government body at work that is looking to centralize everything, that this underground organization is looking to strip us of our God-given rights to freedom.
[23:24] Brad continues, asking if this is what we’re seeing the beginnings of in China with the move to a centralized digital currency.
[24:03] Bob talks about the “Us vs Them” mentality that is pervasive in the US, saying that often we consider ourselves the heroes and paint ourselves in the best light possible. He talks of another perspective, saying that sometimes it may be true that the government really has our best interests at heart. Some people who think this way are okay with their information being out there, because everyone else’s is too.
[27:44] Bob “We have to be careful when we say we want privacy online when we really mean complete anonymity, which ultimately leads to an environment that I would argue is not healthy at all. I don’t want to engage with people that I don’t know who they are, where they are, what kind of people they are.”
[28:45] Brad talks about the last 10 years of data collection that has taken place, only to have it suddenly stripped away and giving us even less information about who we’re marketing to.
[29:14] Bob talks about human’s eagerness to believe that there is something behind the curtain pulling the strings, and how we are continually drawn to a worldview that supports that deep feeling. We live with an open- eyed awareness of the threats to us, evolution has served us all well. This awareness can be a strength but also can be very unhealthy.
[30:13] Brad asks Bob about his ideal world of privacy “Ideally, what would you give and take? And what would that look like? How would you be able to control your own privacy so that you can give away as much as you want?”
[30:48] Bob keeps it simple, saying “I opt toward common sense. Anything that you wouldn’t do in the real world, don’t do online.” He gives some basic advice for maintaining privacy in the real (non-online) world. Shred bank statements, don’t send your financial information via email, use your common sense and think about how you’d handle the same information in a digital format.
[32:50] Brad talks about Apple’s efforts at maintaining privacy for their users with double encrypted messaging applications and the ability to use a uniquely created email instead of your personal email address.
[33:50] Brad wonders what Facebook plans to do as laws and regulations around privacy change- when so much of their revenue comes directly from advertising and then the ability to advertise as well is diminished, where are they going to turn next? Brad has heard of Facebook’s intentions to move into the podcast space, which is a healthy diversification strategy for the times.
[34:58] Bob encourages anyone who does believe that “Big Brother” is out to get them to ask themselves “Who is benefiting from me believing that?” If you can truly be honest with yourself and see that there is likely someone else who is pushing that narrative and benefiting from it.
[36:08] Ken talks about the concept of complete anonymity, saying that ultimately there is no “Golden Rule” when it comes to internet privacy- there is no objective Privacy Truth. So it’s up to us to learn from our history, to maintain that balance of power and ensure that it does not go unchecked. We need to be protected in a reasonable way, and be aware of what we’re giving up and when we are giving it up.