An interesting paradox exists between people and their privacy when it comes to social media. The very idea of social media as Mark Zuckeberg has pointed out time and time again is the ability to connect and share with people. We share all kinds of things from what we’re doing to everything we like (and everything we don’t!). We aim to connect with as many people as we can, but in the same breathe try to protect our privacy from intrusion.
Companies that have an interest in scooping up all that data we post on every.com site imaginable turn to social media monitoring services. Social Media Monitoring enables companies to easily see everything we put on social media sites from Facebook to Flickr, Twitter to LinkedIn. These monitoring companies offer a variety services including mining the data and formulating useful graphs and charts on our habits.
In light of both our fight for privacy and our need to share, critics debate the ethics of social media monitoring. In “Debating the Ethics of Social Media Research” Jeffrey Henning outlined the debate.
1. Cite/obscure identities of commenters: Do you give credit to the source or do you obscure the identity of individuals when using the data?
2. Seek/don’t seek permission: Do you get consent to use the data or accept that consent is not always possible to obtain?
3. Engage/don’t engage with commenters: Do you respond to commentators and possibly influence them or sit passively respecting that individual may say things online that are not always true?
4. Respect/ignore perceptions of privacy: Do you allow the users to think their privacy is being respected or accept that everything on the internet is public?
I think that standard PR ethics codes (i.e. PRSA) can adequately address the problems associated with social media monitoring. I think knowing and understanding the target audience is also a big part of the process. Forrester’s Social Technographic Consumer Profiles can illuminate how your target uses social media.