Privacy is a dimension of goods and services just like any other – price, quality, customer service, “green” values, etc. As rarely as the consuming public demands privacy (alas), it’s worth pointing out when it does. I think the Facebook “beacon” brouhaha is a good example.
As I have yet to believe in the ‘phenomenon’ of social networking, I haven’t followed it carefully, but Facebook rolled out an ‘ingenious’ advertising program that – incidentally – was very privacy-invasive. After a week or two of unceasing derision from a number of quarters, the company has admitted error and backed away.
Now, I believe that this is the market functioning. The most persistent (and obnoxious!) critic of Facebook in my field of vision was ValleyWag. But MoveOn.org also petitioned the company, another iteration of market pressure – any such communication from the public implicitly threatens direct action against a company’s bottom line.
Others may believe that threatened complaints to the FTC prompted Facebook to see the error in its ways. These folks would accordingly credit government regulation and the threat of regulation.
It would be worth studying as an empirical matter what inputs Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was exposed to, and what most influenced him and his team. I bet the derision of commentators and his local, tech-industry peers was strongest. That’s the market working.
But I’d be happy to consider better surmise – or even actual evidence!