The Foolishness of Privacy

By Hanns Kohler-Kruner posted 05-21-2010 16:47



Over the last 2 days I had the pleasure of taking part in the annual UNISYS ECM Best Practise Seminar in the South of France… and before anyone mentions it, yes, it is a beautiful location and a very nice place to be. The discussions were very good and included Analysts like Hans Kaashoek from Strategy Partners and Dr. Barry Lurie  from the Saint Joseph’s University. The first day was spent discussing the future of ECM and of course - Social Media, Enterprise 2.0 and the Cloud played a role in the discussion. But it was another subject that caught my attention on the day.

Privacy! After a lot of discussion about privacy in the last couple of weeks and the new Facebook Social API and the popular website of, which checks your Facebook  settings for unnecessary openness, I spend some time thinking about this from the E.20 perspective. These are my initial thoughts and may need some refining, but I am sure this community will help. J

First of all, anyone who puts anything out on the internet needs to be aware that it remains out there forever. That is a well known fact, although still not well practised and controlled by many.

Now taking Social Media technologies and putting them  into the intranet to allow people to collaborate and share and discuss as well as create content in Blogs and wikis, how does that relate to privacy? Many European countries have strict privacy laws that include things like the protection of personal emails even in business email accounts.

What about privacy in true Enterprise 2.0 media? There is none and none should be expected!

I can already hear the works councils shouting but let’s ignore them for a bit. The strength in these tools lies in the transparency and the openness in communication, not in creating additional little silos next to your IM history, personal Emails and others technologies that may be available. If you want or need privacy, you can create 1-on-1 conversations in other places. After all this is a tool that is inside of a controlled user group (all employees, R&D department, Marketing, etc.)

Now with this comes the good, the bad and the ugly. The good is of course all the reasons why Enterprise 2.0 can bring value to organization. There dozens of excellent blog and blog posts all over the place, some of them right here in this community. The bad is: you mess up everyone can see your comments. Now this is already the case in today’s social communities, but when colleagues are involved, this can get even more embarrassing. The ugly is just the sheer HR headache that this way of working can bring with it, and the new set of challenges as HR needs to figure how to deal with the privacy vs. transparency options.

There is a lot of governance, culture change and guidelines necessary to cover this effectively in an organization, but not thinking about it before you start might just mean you’ve got another hand tied behind your back when launching into this. Don’t !

What do you think ? Privacy is about a lot more than security configuration. Any examples of how you have dealt with this, especially from Europe ?

#laws #facebook #privacy #socialmedia