SXSW Privacy Panel Recap

The privacy panel on day 2 of SXSW was led by danah boyd of Microsoft Research. Panelists included Judith Donath – MIT Media Laboratory, Siva Vaidhyanathan – University of Virginia, and Alice Marwick – New York University.  The panel was centered around topics but rather than a conversation it felt more like a stream of points, thus my notes are more a stream of points. Sorry if it seems confusing and jumps around. There were some complaints about the panel being overly academic. Comments and corrections welcome.

Opening statements / remarks by panelists


  • writing a book on the googlization of everything
  • interested in the nature of transaction between us/users and google
  • google provides some levels of control to users about what personal information they are permitted to collect, but those controls are not obvious
  • he wants to debunk some myths he feels are common misconceptions:
  • #1 – privacy is not merely the opposite of publicity – just because we post a lot of content about ourselves doesn’t mean we are not concerned about privacy
  • #2 – privacy is not a substance that can be traded or given away; google’s stock phrase is “people are willing to trade a little bit of privacy for a better user experience”. This assumes we’re diivying out little bits of privacy


  • Interested in how social media impacts status & is studying the microcelebrity
  • there is positive value to publicness – i.e. there is value in twitter & participating in conversations; she’s interviewed CEOs who wouldn’t hire someone without a facebook profile; cites an example of emotional support as a reason to be public about difficult experiences
  • the more information you put out there, the more valuable that is to corporate interest; corporations create valuable people profiles based on information you may not realize you are sharing; just because you make something public doesn’t mean anyone should use that for their personal gain


  • Focus on social vizualization
  • interested in private / public contexts; how many public faces do you have
  • controlling your public persona is related to the larger issue of how many faces you keep and how many personas you maintain
  • it is easy to collapse these contexts online; social norms exist in our daily public life i.e. in a restaurant it is not socially acceptable to butt in on another table’s conversations; however, it is harder to see these social norms online
  • we don’t have a digital equivalent of a mirror to help us know the trail we leave behind

boyd – what is technology’s affect on privacy / publicity?


  • no change is purely technological – also cultural
  • corporations are rewarded for capturing attention – firms are interested in gathering our preferences, not just to target us personally but to target us in the aggregate
  • in 1973 – 1976 Americans were concerned with rights as citizens / consumers; vocal movement brought about strong laws that reformed the credit rating system but also created laws that last to today such as it being illegal for one govt agency to share information with other agencies;


  • people are unaware of the profiles created about them by “the corporation”; there needs to be a way to see the trails you are leaving behind; people don’t know what information is being shared with corporate entitities; having control over the data trail should be similar to how you dress and look; you should be able to choose how to shape your data trail
  • villages have very little privacy as compared to today’s society that is more isolated & private; for most of history we haven’t had this type of “recording” ability; your information can be taken out of context 20 years from now; we’re forcing a public sphere that is extremely tolerant; we are looking at a large public space where the norms are very broad


  • teenager research shows that kids felt their homes were not private to them, it was more public as parents controlled the household space


  • each social context has different methods for information flow; information can easily move from one context to another
  • people tell her they don’t believe in the separation of public / private but they don’t keep everything online
  • is the burden on the individual or on the corporation to manage your information; ezpass as an example of non internet specific data about you that you should manage as well


  • shouldn’t i have some stake in my information being used if i am creating social currency?
  • most people are unaware of the controls that are in place for them to protect their information; we need to publicly design laws and controls that can be understood by everyone, not just the digital elites


  • sometimes this social currency is to our advantage, ie. getting jobs based on what we’ve shared


  • can surveillance create a better community?  looking after each other can make each other treat others more humanely
  • reciprocity – you share with friends / colleagues because you know that there is a limit to how much damage the person can do with your info; this is not true with corporate / govt; build in the notion of reciprocity in relationships; trashing the dignity of the star wars kid – we can easily harm the dignity of others
  • terms of service are not amendable by users; they are not clear enough for people to truly understand how the information is being used; sites can change ToS unilaterally – you cannot fight back (though audience brings up that you can, and it was done with Facebook)


  • What does it look like if you aggregate all of the information about yourself – what you’ve changed, where you’ve been, your ez pass? However you can’t see this portrait of yourself.

SXSW Session Recap: My Boss Doesn’t Get It: Championing Social Media to the Man

My first SXSW session ended up being a good choice, and it was packed. The session was a panel hosted by Small World Labs. I’ve been to other panels by them in the past and they do a great job with them. The panel was led by Miles Sims (@milessims) of Small World Labs and included Peter Kim (@peterkim) from Dachis Corporation, Michael Wilson (@wilsonmichael) from Small World Labs, Rebecca Caroe (@rebeccacaroe) from and Christian Caldwell (@xian3000) from American Heart Association.

The first topic of the panel was ROI, framed in terms such as:
Will social media make money? Does it make sense? Does a successful pitch depend on having ROI figures?

The panelists were torn on this question. Some were strong advocates for measuring and showing business impact (Peter Kim) while others went under the radar and managed to get buy in with fewer metrics.

Caldwell: AHA is dependent on donor dollars, so every dollar needs to be justified. They did need ROI to get executive buy in and used REACH as their metric. They showed examples / scenarios and built a financial model to justify what they were planning. They spent 6 weeks building their case to their board.

What financial metrics, aside from ad revenue, make sense?

Peter Kim’s approach: equivalency – costs compared to the alternatives. For example, how much would digital advertising cost. How do you build ROI? He responds, building ROI is more an art than a science; the right answer is that it depends on your operating structure.

The next topic – what are the top non financial challenges?

Sims: Focus on what can social media do for customers *first*? Then, what resources do you have to make small successes?
Caroe: Company culture – if there is a culture with an issue with lack of control, this is an indicator that you are not ready.

I don’t fully agree with these points, but I understand where they are coming from. Focusing on customer value before examining resources may lead you down a path where you are planning for a scenario that in unrealistic given your resources. Also, as Peter points out later in the session, there are ways social media can help you keep control of your brand.

How about legal issues? What does your legal department say about what you are doing in your social media project?

Caldwell: AHA is working with legal right now. They got in under the legal radar, but they are now gaining attention from  that department. They use Yammer internally and also use Facebook groups.  They are developing a set of employee guidelines that are similar to the IBM & MS blogging guidelines. Essentially they boil down to – and I quote – “Don’t be stupid. Use your best judgement”.  Some AHA projects were done without executive buy in but they did seek out some executive support (i.e. Director of Corporate Communications).  They then said they had someone from legal working with them from the start, but that contradicts their earlier statement so perhaps I misunderstood.
Sims: if a competitor is doing something, it is easier for you to make the case to your executive board.
Kim: Rather than just focusing on ROI, address some of the wide set misconceptions about social media. For example, executives tend to feel that they need to give up control in their social media projects. You can retain control, and even gain more control, over your brand with social media. Combat sensationalist fears.

Does the scenario chance from UK to US?
Caroe: UK faces very similar concerns as in the US. She gave a nod to Lee Bryant from Headshift.

How do you suggest getting started?
Kim: He worked with a regulated industry who wanted to blog. They needed to change their scope and focus to make it work. They got momentum behind a core set of bloggers.
Sims: Start small; not a massive change of culture all at once.

Who’s more or less supportive of Social media?
Kim: He sees evangelists / enthusiasts / sponsors from all departments. Misconception of young people magically wired to change the company with social media. Look to John Chambers from Cisco and Scott Cook from Intuit as social media minded CEOs. Also PnG Digital Hack Day as an example.
Caldwell: He doesn’t really see patterns of roles, but patterns in attitude; i.e. fear of loss of control
Caroe: UK is less tolerant of failure.

Examples of failures?
Caldwell: In their “Go red for women” campaign, they solicited videos on Facebook. They had 2500 videos to go through and screen within one weekend. If you open yourself up, make sure you have the resources to respond.
Kim: If you can measure it you can manage it

Top challenge to get social media project approved?
Kim: be realistic.
Caroe: don’t over engineer
Caldwell: show business value

Top way to ensure success?
Kim: good planning
Caroe: show results
Caldwell: monitor progress
Sim: know what metrics you need to measure

Does social media in the workplace make people less productive?
Caldwell: There is a fear that everyone will be playing on Secondlife and Facebook instead of work. Sound familiar? We faced the same thing with bringing in the internet – everyone will be surfing all day! And the same thing with computers – everyone will be playing solitaire all day!

Controversial Facebook App Promises Riches

Last night I received an invite from someone in my social network to look at the new Facebook app called “Chat-to-text”. Curious about it, I watched the video provided by the company. To my surprise, the video was more about how you can make money using this application than actually about the application itself. There was a description of what the app does, which allows Facebookers to send SMS text messages to each other from profile pages, but this was buried in a “Get rich now!” message. Sensing danger, I wanted to know if anyone actually tried this, and I was pointed to this article by a Facebook friend.

There’s a few points being debated:

Is this application a Pyramid scheme or Multi-Level Marketing?

Note: Image is from the Chat to Text Video


BuzzMarketingDaily believes this is a Pyramid scheme, which is illegal in the United States among other countries. Paypal’s definition states that pyramid schemes involve the exchange of money in relation to the process of enrolling other people into the scheme. PayPal includes in its definition of “pyramid schemes” any system in which a hierarchy is created by people joining under others who joined previously, and in which those who join make payments to those above them in the hierarchy (“upline”).

The other side of the debate considers this Multi-Level Marketing, defined by Paypal: Multi-level marketing plans, also known as “network” or “matrix” marketing, include any business in which a person receives proceeds from his or her own sales of goods or services, of recruited members, or any combination thereof.

It seems like the missing piece of information that would help determine whether this is a pyramid or MLM is exactly what the payment is for – enrolling a person or “selling” the service? In other words, if the $2 I would get for signing up a friend is simply for enrolling them, it would be a pyramid. If the $2 I get for is for “selling” them the Chat to Text application, it seems like it would be MLM.

Does this application violate Facebook’s terms of service?
If this is a clear Pyramid scheme, then it would violate FB’s TOS. The TOS does not state anything about MLMs though.  Again, BuzzMarketingDaily says The application is most definitely a violation of Facebook’s terms of service, specifically, that users agree not to “upload, post, transmit, share or otherwise make available any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, solicitations, promotional materials, “junk mail,” “spam,” “chain letters,” “pyramid schemes,” or any other form of solicitation”.

Either way, it violates Paypal’s Acceptable Use Policy. No matter what side of the debates you are on, Paypal, which is being used as the method to send and receive payments for this application, clearly prohibits this type of use: You may not use PayPal to send or receive payments for any form of multi-level marketing programs (including online payment randomizers), as well as matrix, pyramid and Ponzi schemes, “get rich quick” schemes, “Autosurf” programs, High Yield Investment Programs (HYIP), or other similar ventures.

Need a contacts+calendar+info web app…know any?

I’ve been wanting the same online app for a few years. I should just go and build it, but I am sure someone, somewhere must have this very thing already built. If it exists, please guide me.

So what I want is an online app that lets me store people’s names, addresses, birthdays, anniversaries, other important dates, and notes.

  • I don’t want to share it. No one needs to know where Aunt Alice lives or when her anniversary is.
  • I don’t want to exclude people who aren’t ‘registered’ for the tool. Grams isn’t hanging out online, and it’s her birthday I want to remember.
  • I don’t want random people from friends or email lists showing up.

Must haves:

  • I want a calendar view of the events. When Mary Lou’s birthday is coming up, I want to know so I can send a card or flowers or a gift.
  • I want to export grouped addresses to an office document for printing labels.  So when I send out the holiday card, I have all my addresses together.
  • I want reminders of certain events. At least sent to email.

This is not a revolutionary tool, and lots of tools have bits and pieces already:

  • 30boxes does a great job at storing dates, events, and even provides an RSS feed of your events, but no contacts.
  • Google Calendar + Gmail’s contacts could work if Gmail contacts stored date info and could put that info into the calendar for me.
  • Gazillions of social networking sites let me keep track of people (and often at least a birthday) but forget using them to find Great Aunt Mary’s birth date – she isn’t going to be found in my list of buddies.

Does this already exist?