Friday, June 21, 2013

Facebook vs. PricePoint (on privacy)

I don’t trust Facebook …in a sense. To be clear, I’m not saying that Facebook is evil. In fact, I’m on Facebook, I like Facebook, and I often defend it against critics.  However, throughout Facebook’s ever-evolving design, I've been more or less uncomfortable with their privacy controls – which are a common public criticism.

Facebook co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said of his intentions “I’m trying to make the world a more open place.”  I appreciate that, but in my opinion Facebook’s (mis)management of privacy control UI hinders Zuck’s objective. A well-known Seinfeld-ism of “world’s colliding” is good example of the issue.  What people are willing to share with one group (e.g. friends), they may not be willing to share with another (e.g. business colleagues).

Since I don’t fully trust Facebook’s ever-changing privacy policies and UI to keep my world’s from colliding in ways I don’t want, I personally apply a more simple firewall of rarely connecting to business colleagues on Facebook, instead utilizing LinkedIn for that sphere of networking.  This is clearly undesirable for Facebook’s business model as a significant portion of my networking (and value as an advertising audience) goes to a rival platform.

Facebook’s privacy control shortcomings (or my perception of it) served as a direct inspiration in PricePoint’s design towards privacy controls.  Facebook and PricePoint face a parallel responsibility towards our users, and I dare say we've done a better job of it with PricePoint. 

This began with founding GRIP as a completely independent company, and within PricePoint allowing all suppliers to directly control privacy settings in a simple, clear, and intuitive interface.  Furthermore, we proactively guard supplier price privacy by strictly enforcing a 10 day waiting period for all new clients, beginning with a new client announcement to all participating suppliers which gives all ample time to modify their privacy settings.  Going further, during that 10 day period GRIP applies geographic privacy restrictions between any client and supplier based in the same country (presuming they compete against each other), saving time for those suppliers or in case they didn’t see/act on the announcement for any reason.

To be fair, we face a less complex privacy challenge than Facebook, but nonetheless our realization was to place the highest emphasis on creating a trustworthy environment in PricePoint, realizing that pricing is a particularly sensitive area in which users would not want their “worlds to collide”.

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