After recently signing into Groupon, Search Engine Land Editor-in-Chief Danny Sullivan wondered why the site wanted access to a variety of personal information: a list of his friends, his recent check-ins, his date of birth and permission to automatically post status updates for him.
Of course, Sullivan was attempting to log in using Facebook Connect, which would effectively give the coupon service access to most of that data from his Facebook account.
As Sullivan notes, the problem is not that Groupon and Facebook were failing to notify him of this fact during the sign-in process, but rather that the notifications were too vague to be of value. For instance, what exactly might Groupon want to post to his wall, and when? Sullivan writes:
“My guess is that if I do things in Groupon, it might offer to let me share my actions to my Facebook Wall, if I explicitly say so. I don’t know this, of course. And the permissions page does nothing to reassure me. How about a plain English explanation that tells me exactly what might happen?”
This is not just an issue with Facebook Connect, which is growing in popularity, but with any site registration requirement. Most website privacy disclaimers read like they were written by lawyers, and they probably were. All readers want to know is: “If I give you my name, e-mail address and other information, what specifically are you going to do with it, and can I trust you?”
Local media organizations should have an advantage when it comes to gaining readers’ trust, but it is also easy to lose that trust through privacy missteps. It’s important to clearly explain why you need personal information, how you will keep it safe and how sharing it will benefit the reader.