Lately, there's been all sorts of hubbub about use of private information on websites (ahem, Facebook), but it's not really clear what's okay, and what's not okay.
For example, if a site says to me, "if you give me your address, I'll show you a list of stores selling fruit in your area", I'm happy to provide my address for that service. I feel comfortable in knowing what is happening with the data I provide, and this transparency gives me comfort.
On the other hand, if the same site doesn't say anything to me and simply infers my location from some sort of browser history sniffing trick, then shows me the same ads, I'll feel a bit violated when I figure out what happened. There are two points of friction in this second scenario: (1) I wasn't asked for the data, and (2) I was unaware of how the data would be used or with whom it would be shared.
Stephanie Clifford of the Times writes an article about sites that are starting to be transparent and straightforward with their data collection and use. When your users enter into a relationship with you knowing well that you intend to use the data they provide, everything works out swimmingly. If you instead just collect the data and later start using it for something new that users catch wind of, they are shocked, feel violated, and you end up in a predicament like Zuckerberg.
In a few upcoming posts, I'll go more in depth about my thoughts on web privacy. For now I'll conclude with hope that more sites will be upfront and transparent with what they do and will keep descriptions of their privacy-related practices accessible to users--users who armed with an understanding can make an educated choice on whether or not they should be sharing their data.