Cultural differences in privacy will hinder the mobile/social explosion

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I recently read an article in The Economist that talks about the cultural differences between the US and Europe when it comes to digital privacy. It’s a good article and it begs the question, what the coming mobile/social explosion will look like for cultures that have a stronger sense of personal privacy than the US.

The immense success of social media and the smartphone over the past several years has many businesses preparing for the opportunities this marriage will create. An essential element to these opportunities lies in a user’s willingness to share their information. Situational advertising, personalized marketing are only possible if your settings allow businesses to know “see” your shadow. The article in The Economist points out that within the European Union there are differing opinions on what privacy laws should entail. The true can be said of the US. We’ve most recently talked about these differences in terms of the red and blue states, but anyone who’s recently been in New York and Texas knows exactly what I’m talking about. Might as well be different planets.

One of the benefits of mobile and social is there ability to get hyper-local. Geo-location helps map out where your users are. Social enables businesses to determine your tastes via your settings and your friend’s settings. Businesses are going to struggle if they think they are going to be able to create a set of standards that works between the US and the rest of the world. (They aren’t going to be able to do this within the US of A.) If we take the concept of hyper-local one step further we get to personal preference. Businesses should empower their customers/potential customers to make decisions about their privacy settings; explaining to them CLEARLY, what sharing their information means. This is the only way businesses that want to have good, mutually beneficial relationships with their customers online, will be able to create deep relationships, long-term.

Businesses are also going to have to accept that there are people out there that won’t ever want to have relationships with businesses. I would not rely on governments to make good decisions for me as a consumer and I know that self-regulation is a stretch for many governments.

In all honesty, the difficult part will be clearly explaining to people across multiple cultures how to manage their privacy. Giving them the power will be easy by comparison.

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I'm an Associate Teaching Professor of Digital Marketing at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. I also consult with startups and established brands. I'm currently focused on artificial intelligence, cognitive neuroscience and culture. I am married to an amazing woman and have two incredible children. I was raised in Colorado and spend my free time with family, biking, snowboarding and going to the Pacific Ocean to SCUBA dive and/or surf. I'm passionate about architecture, design, street art, photography and the art that tattooing has evolved into.

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