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Tom DenfordDec 10, 20133 min read

Dear Customer, Come On A Magical Mystery Privacy Tour


Roll up (AND) THAT’S AN INVITATION, roll up for the mystery tour.

You’d be hard pressed to have missed the recent pressure being heaped on Facebook in response to their incessant push to tinker with their privacy settings. Almost anyone with a Facebook account will have received an ambiguous email detailing the changes, the trades are full of opinion and rhetoric and privacy groups in the US have kindly issued Mark Zuckerberg with an open letter detailing their strong concerns.

Against this backdrop of criticism and naysaying is the small fact that Facebook has built quite a successful platform that counts half of the global Internet audience as an active user-base.

Trust me, the point I want to make isn’t one of requesting that we back off and leave poor Facebook alone but rather to perhaps look at the issue of privacy from a slightly different perspective.

As such I’m going to put open letters and industry opinion to one side and just consider whether there’s another question we should be considering:

What position should brands take as they actively encourage their customers to go deeper and deeper into the complex warren of privacy exposure?


Should the fingers be pointed squarely at Facebook for creating an ever increasingly complex privacy labyrinth, at agencies for insisting on creating ever more creative ways of leading clients customers through the labyrinth, or brands for taking their customers down into the labyrinth with little instruction on what’s down there or how to get out?

Don’t get me wrong this isn’t about stifling innovation as I’m all for harnessing the power of the privacy labyrinth but I firmly believe that parties should only head in once they can honestly answer the following:

What insight do we have that proves to us that our customers are willing to go on a journey with us that will potentially expose and exploit their privacy?


In other words by all means create the complex, harness the new and explore ways to build a rich and engaging experience but do so firm in the knowledge that it’s what your customers want. And that’s not just across the likes of Facebook but in fact across all various social, mobile and web platforms.

Woe betide brands that ignore basic rules of engagement. If we need evidence that insight is required, just this week reports have surfaced that point towards the nervousness of customers to share data, which is perhaps not that surprising. More startling is the continued disconnect between what brands see as engagement and what customers see as engagement. Consider that platforms such as Facebook were created for the use and pleasure of consumers and not brands and it’s easy to see that brands must tread carefully on the consumers patch.

The advice for all brands therefore is quite simple:

Take responsibility for the experience that your customers are put through and don’t rely on others to take your customers into the complex privacy labyrinth without understanding the implications for both you and your customer.


Failure to do so and risk the pitfalls faced by other brands that have been duped into leading their customers down the wrong magical mystery tour, only to find that they can’t get them out again.

If there’s one word of advice to Facebook and that’s to make privacy clear and simple rather than complex and ambiguous. Whilst initiatives such as ‘Quit Facebook Day’ have minimal interruption (last quit day saw about 0.003% of current usership quit their accounts) there is a growing swell of resentment amongst the once loyal followers.

Heed the advice and enjoy the tour.


Tom Denford

Tom Denford is one of the world’s most trusted advisors to senior marketing and procurement leaders on navigating media and digital transformation. With 20 years’ experience in the marketing industry, which covers senior global roles in creative and media agencies, Tom co-founded ID Comms in 2009, with ambition for the company to be the world experts in maximising media value and performance.