Who hasn’t heard about or commented on it this week?

Wherever I have been, whomever I have spoken to and whatever news I watched, read, listened to or scrolled, the main topic was WikiLeaks.

To some it’s devastating…destroying the fabric of diplomacy and the historic etiquette of international relations.

To others it’s been a comic relief – many of the so-called revelations are in fact funny to us the reading public – while skewering pretentious and posturing world leaders.

And, maybe to all a bit troubling, as it does seem that we blunder from issue to issue – but even that needs to be taken in context, as bottom line it’s all very human and not unlike what we’d find on Facebook…

And therein lies the dilemma.

Was this a punishable breach of privacy? Or are we all entitled to read everything?


On the one hand we still live in the shadow of fear of “Big Brother” and what happens when personal privacy becomes the domain of one entity. In fact, I’d posit that this is the opposite of the Facebook tell-it-all culture – where no one controls privacy – we put it all out for all to see.

So, the question is when we, marketing /business types, tell people that “we know all about you” because we track Web behavior, is that Big Brother like? Or is it something else? Maybe something less diabolical and possibly even benign?

Because what does it really mean? I know what you bought? I know what you read? I know what you looked at? Does that really equal Big Brother?

My view is no – not even close.

Lester Wunderman once told me that if people really knew how little of the information that we capture is actually useful to marketers, they’d never worry. He further said that if people knew how many marketers were not even able to use the information they should use, they’d sleep even better.

To start with, I think more of humankind than to assume I can get someone to buy what they don’t want and never should because I am in possession of some data about them. On the other hand, I’d like to believe that I could be useful to people and help them to see and acquire what they need and want at the right time, at the best price and in the most efficient way.

Now – identify theft and such are different – I do worry about that – but we can do a better job of security and have harsher laws to protect us – as we do offline.

And, less you think I am naïve and unaware – let me add that I do have a fear of too much power in any one hand, and a couple of years ago I gave testimony to a U.S. Congressional panel to that effect.

I was asked to comment on the proposed Google/Yahoo alliance and, although the clear issue was monopoly of channel (sort of obvious), I added the following thought: “If you control the algorithm, you effectively control the information it presents.” In other words, why let any one entity have the power to push you up or down or erase you at will. Not that I believe that is their intent – but why tempt? N’est-ce pas? 

But let’s keep going on privacy – because I do believe it is a key issue.

While we have abdicated certain standards – it has been by choice. The notion that my election to tell anything, all or most about myself gives you the right to the same about me is offensive to me, and a violation of my personal space.

What troubles me – frankly – is not Big Brother – but little brother – the college roommate who hides a camera in the room and broadcasts your most personal moments; the “friend” who anonymously posts or tweets something about you that they are privy to and that you assumed was sacrosanct; the colleague who takes what you say out of context and tells the world; the acquaintance who makes fun of your clothing or accent or comment…you get the point.

This is the invasion of privacy that we need to think about – and maybe as a community help combat – think of it like the beer companies running “Don’t drink and drive” during the holidays.

We who want and need access to data in order to be helpful – and yes to increase our profits – need to be concerned about what others do with data – even though it’s not the same type and of course not used in the same way.

Seems to me that this is a basic human issue and maybe one appropriate for the season (if this is your season – if not, it’s all weather…) and that is respect.

In the end – that is what it all boils down to – N’est-ce pas? Basic respect for our fellow human – regardless of race, color, creed, religion, sex or sexual orientation, politics, taste in clothes, food, wine or movies….

So here is my question – have we advanced as a society? Are we heading in the right direction? Do we have a clue?

Here are two thoughts – you tell me…listen: 

Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.
Ayn Rand

It seems to me, Golan, that the advance of civilization is nothing but an exercise in the limiting of privacy.”  
Janov Pelorat in Asimov’s Foundation’s Edge  

Wish I knew…

What do you think?


P.S. I add this – worth the read – and your thoughts:
Fast CompanySee How You Have Been Tracked

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