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Posts Tagged ‘privacy’

TMI – The Chicken Or The Egg?

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

When someone asks, “How did this start – everybody’s private business being so public?” a lot of fingers get pointed.  People interested in civil liberties will claim that corporate lobbyists pushed through laws, allowing more access to individuals’ information.

On the other hand, one only needs to watch an evening of the poorly named “reality” shows to see that there must be some truth to Mark Zuckerberg’s claim that “people aren’t interested in privacy anymore.”  It seems that nearly anyone will debase themselves publicly for a price and 15 minutes of fame – or less.  Often, they don’t need a price . . .  just an audience will do.

Just as the constant use of a brand as an everyday term will water down its meaning, rendering it useless, so too is privacy diluted in meaning if  we pull out all the stops and leave nothing to the imagination or have no barriers whatsoever on which information is to be considered “off limits” to the general population.

This isn’t just a social media issue, but ventures out into many areas of customer service that concerns constituents in a variety of venues regarding data collection and its relevance to the actual transactions:

•     Vance* objects to gas pumps that require him to enter his zip code first at the pump.  “They claim it’s for ‘security purposes,’ but when I go inside to pay instead, they take my credit card without requiring my zip code . . . or ID, so how secure is that?”  Vance says he makes a point not to frequent gas stations with this requirement.

•     Wynona* concurs, and says that when various cashiers ask for her zip code prior to ringing up her purchases, she always replies with, I don’t want to participate. “Sometimes, though,” Wynona says, “The cashier will be so surprised at my response that they don’t know how to proceed.  They’ll explain it to me, as though I don’t understand, or something, and when I re-explain to them that I’m not going to, they get a deer in the headlights look before figuring out how to enter a fictional zip code that allows them to proceed ringing up my purchase.  It’s sad, really.”  Wynona doesn’t usually shop at such places on a repeat basis either.

•     Albert* makes a point not to sign his credit cards.  He feels that it is offering up his signature to a potential thief to easily forge, and knows that if his card is stolen, he would only be liable for the first $50.  “Most merchants don’t bother looking, anyway, except during the holidays, and then they ask for a photo ID to verify that I’m me,” he says.  He considers these “security measures” to be a joke.

•     Bertha* recently learned of how much geotracking smartphones are doing of their customers, and wondered if there isn’t even more happening than is being disclosed.  While she was on vacation recently, she visited relatives who watched a great deal of satellite television – programs she typically doesn’t view.  Bertha spent the time in the same room (with her smart phone) either visiting with relatives, catching up on work, or playing her favorite game on her phone.  By the end of the week, she noticed a stark difference in the ads that came up during her handheld’s game.  It was promoting television shows on the network her relatives had been watching that week.  She had never seen these ads promoted during this game before.  “I don’t mean to sound paranoid or delusional,” Bertha said, “But honestly – I wouldn’t put it past Apple or Google!”

•     Cecil* recently moved to the area and was setting up an appointment with a new doctor.  As they took down his insurance information, name, address, etc., the receptionist also asked him for his social security number.  He balked at this and asked why it was necessary, only to be told, “for identification purposes.”  When he persisted in knowing the reason that the doctor’s office needed this information, the receptionist narrowed the field and said that “the last four digits” would suffice, actually.  Once again, Cecil insisted that his social security number was not related or needed to him being a new patient, and required an explanation.  The receptionist didn’t even respond to his question, and instead simply moved on to the next question on the form.

•     Diane* has met with similar superfluous questions when it comes to medical personnel, and she feels that it is often targeted toward women more than men.  “Very nearly always, I am asked about my marital status on medical questionnaires, and I always refuse to answer.  It’s archaic and irrelevant to my medical health,” she says.  They don’t ask for ethnicity or religion, so why marital status?  That’s not the same as emergency contact.  I’ve even had someone argue and try to insist that I answer this question.  Needless to say, I didn’t return there.”

Each of these individuals were all keenly aware of the fact that their data was being solicited, tracked and harvested by various vendors, and they objected – but it’s the exception, not the rule.  Most people are unaware of their default settings and to what extent their data is revealed to others.

More commonly, tracking is being embedded – almost seamlessly and invisibly – into something disguised as philanthropic, so that people give permission for their data to be harvested without even realizing it.  Vendors are now trying to slap the word charity on their marketing and having the general public peddle their wares to their friends via social media.  If it starts with a nonprofit promoting it, all the better, companies figure.

Take care what causes – and channels – you support, lest a scandal come back later to bite you.  Even if the public didn’t realize what a campaign was on its face, they will care a great deal about what was behind the mask when all is revealed.

More people DO care about their privacy being guarded than the Zuckerbergs of the world would lead us to believe, and trust lost isn’t easily won back.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

“You really don’t need to be eating that,” a volunteer admonished Opal* at her desk.  “You’re too fat already.”

Opal works at a very busy nonprofit for the mentally handicapped, and it’s common for staff to work through lunch, eating at their desks.

“The first few times, I simply ignored it,” Opal recounted, “But it didn’t go away. I simply could not eat my lunch – or anything – without this woman lecturing me on my diet, weight, etc. – and very loudly, for all to hear, since everyone’s workspace is in cubicles in our office.”

“Finally,” Opal recalls, “I had had it. I declared to her firmly that what I ate was my business, not hers, and I didn’t want to hear another word about it, period. This angered her, and she began writing me notes and leaving them on my desk, in broken spelling and grammar, explaining how my bad diet and weight would eventually kill me, and so forth.”

With documentation now in hand, and feeling she had no other recourse, Opal took the notes to her supervisor . . . and was gravely disappointed at the response.

Her supervisor, also a woman, appeared to empathize, yet encouraged Opal to see that this woman was mentally handicapped, after all. (Then, she reminded Opal that this particular volunteer was also related to a major donor.) Opal was encouraged to take longer lunch hours . . . out of the office instead, and nothing was ever said to the volunteer on the topic.

A couple of weeks later, as Opal was departing for the Thanksgiving holiday and simultaneously waved goodbye to the volunteer and her supervisor, the volunteer yelled out her parting words for all to hear:  Don’t eat too much!

That led Opal to decide to Forget It! and she contacted me to begin her job search immediately after the holiday weekend. It was clear that her workplace would never be interested in providing a harassment free environment for her.

Peter* worked in fundraising and was relatively new to his organization. He made it clear upon being hired a couple of years ago that he wanted to get experience in major gifts, and his director had told him that she would mentor him in that area, taking him on occasional calls, since she needed help boosting that segment – and couldn’t possibly visit all the prospects, anyway.

What he realized after his first year review, however, was that this particular goal had gone nowhere. There were always other details that kept him busy, in the office, or otherwise occupied. His director had made plenty of calls, yet she had never managed to take him along. In fact, he noticed that there was no mentoring of any kind happening between them. They only met for status reports, or for him to receive assignments from her.

Peter consulted with me on whether or not he should look for another position so he could get the major gifts experience he sought.

As we weighed the pros and cons of his current position, Peter realized that there really were more prospects in the database than his director could possibly visit, but he would most likely have to approach the less important ones, so as not to step on his director’s toes. He would also have to reevaluate how he was currently spending his time on his other duties: Which tasks would take a back seat, or could be delegated?

When Peter looked at it from this perspective, he decided that he could Fix It! and make the time in his schedule to add a few major donor calls and visits each week. He was still disappointed that he would have to learn it all on his own, rather than be coached, as promised, but there would be no guarantee that a new supervisor would be any better a mentor, either. I also recommended that he sign up for the mentoring program through his local AFP chapter, which has helped many people. It’s also a good source of general networking.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
— Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Molly* and Nina* handle networking challenges outside the office

Trudy* and Velma* recognize warning signs at work

Patrick* and Ramona* find ways to seek professional development


Fix It Or Forget It?

Friday, October 1st, 2010

How would you feel if others knew your salary?  What if you knew what they made?  Would it bother you if others knew your relative standing?  Would you Fix It or Forget It?  See what others did.

Some people feel that salary is a very private matter, while others believe that it is more of a management conspiracy, keeping everyone in the dark for the benefit of driving all pay and benefits down, and that having this information open would be better for workers in general.

Sam* originally had difficulty finding permanent work, but was hired as a temp, and was generally pleased with his job.  It ended up being quite a long-term assignment, and although he wondered why the company didn’t just hire him outright, he decided not to pursue the matter – particularly because he was later assigned greater tasks, including supervising subsequent short-term temporary employees.

One day, however, Sam discovered a horrifying truth, when he was assigned to clean and organize certain files: he saw documents showing that the recent temporary staff that he supervised were each paid more than he was!

This was a wake-up call that made Sam decide to Forget It! and contact me about a job search elsewhere.  Clearly, the company not only had no intention of bringing him on permanently, but they had no sense of priority with regard to pay, either!

Theresa* was working on her company server, trying to view and group documents into a more user-friendly arrangement, since most staff didn’t use it properly or know where to find the documents that were there.  Many were replicated multiple times due to this, weighing heavily on the server, and leading to confusion as to the correct, final copy of certain documents.

While working on this project, she stumbled upon a public folder that her director had created which blatantly listed every member of her department’s salary . . . including her own!  Theresa was aghast and uncertain what to do with this information.  Because of the confusion of the server structure – and relatively unskilled staff – it was unlikely anyone else would find these documents.  On the other hand, all anyone had to do was go looking, and they could easily see the information.

Theresa considered several possibilities and concluded that exposing her (very ignorant) supervisor would most likely result in him deflecting the blame back upon her, such as admonishing her for viewing others’ salary information, or punishing her for moving “his” files to a secure location that he probably couldn’t locate.

She decided to Fix It! by blanking out only her salary information on the document, and leaving it where it was.  It seemed clear that her director only referred to the document during times of staff turnover, for listing job descriptions, etc.  She hoped that if and when he noticed and mentioned it to her, she would already be ready to depart the organization.

Theresa stayed another year, to establish a good work history on her resume, before we began her job search, and her director never mentioned the document to her – although she did notice that he finally added a password protection to it shortly before her departure.  She secretly wondered if/when he noticed her edit to it.

There are some new studies out about how knowing one’s pay in relation to others’ can affect one’s satisfaction in the workplace, and debate about whether or not this information should be made more public.

Consider the case of Lilly Ledbetter, however, and many before her who have affected the workplace, because they did come forward.  Legislation has been enacted that will make real changes, because someone notified Lilly Ledbetter that she was paid less than coworkers with less time on the job and less experience.

Despite years of her efforts in the courts, the ruling was that she should have known – and objected to – the pay discrepancy within the first 180 days of her employment!  The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed into law, reverses this decision.

Many employers still find ways to circumvent legal requirements to pay what they should, however.

Veronica* worked diligently at her entry level development position, very nearly always putting in an additional 10 – 15 hours per week, and was pleased when she learned at her review that she was promoted with a professional level and title, along with a slight raise in salary.

What she soon realized, however, was that her additional duties required at least as many additional hours, and her new exempt status meant that she no longer earned any overtime pay.  It didn’t take long for her to catch on that her “slight pay raise” was actually going to cost her money at the end of the year!

It’s imperative that employees use all negotiating tactics available, and begin by believing in their own worth.  Some tools that can help with this are industry salary surveys, to bolster one’s case for adequate pay.  Another aid to the actual bargaining itself is the book Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock.  The subtitle is The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation – and Positive Strategies for Change.

Whether or not we know what others earn, we need to lobby on our own behalf more diligently – instead of waiting and hoping to be recognized for a job well done.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Why – and How – Should I Give To Your Organization?

Monday, September 13th, 2010

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Here’s some Monopoly, er . . . Facebook Money.  Don’t Mention It.

I’ve written before about how important it is that non profits stick to promoting their mission above all else when raising funds, promoting awareness, educating constituents, and so forth.  A knowledgeable, supportive donor base is built from cultivation, not sensational tactics or quick fixes.

Social media has a wonderful, essential place at the table in achieving this:  Never before have we been able to converse with our supporters in so many ways, receive feedback so immediately, and respond so quickly to the feedback, the market and current events in general.  These are truly fabulous tools to have at our disposal!

With every new device, though, we also inevitably see more people looking to scheme, connive, deceive and generally get something for nothing – or at least minimal effort on their part.  For example, aside from the online ads that users see, people are creating such things as quizzes, apps, posts and tweets to target others en masse.  These are today’s spammers, and they can be seen trolling such places as freelance job sites, looking for workers.  I’d classify Facebook Credits in the wanting something for nothing category.  (The non profit does all of the heavy lifting, while Facebook takes their standard 30% cut of the donation.)

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Virtual Reality

Because Facebook is announcing a new way to purchase their credits (via a gift card at Target), they are also promoting their generosity in waiving their typical fee with all donated credits going to Stand Up For Cancer, as is plainly stated on their Facebook page.  However, this publicity stunt can be seen for what it is, when Nothing But Nets is profiled by Facebook Credits the previous month . . . and no such statement can be seen about 100% of their gifts going to the organization.

All fund raisers have a limited amount of time, energy and budgets.  Among the X amount of contacts I will make with a donor, I’ll ask for a gift during Y percentage of those times.  While there are good examples of combining social media and solicitations, I’m not going to spend one of those Y asks on software pointsSpend virtual money instead of real money?!?!  I don’t think so!

Credits normally redeem at a $0.10 to 1 credit rate, but certain payment methods sometimes extract a larger fee that reduces what users get.  This is reminiscent of when people were asked to collect the tops off of soda cans to buy ____, instead of donating money to buy the item!  Which would you rather collect?

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I’ll Take One of Everything

Consider another avenue of solicitation for a moment: Direct Mail.  Many organizations have purchased or swapped lists from list brokers or other organizations.  What’s the best way to do this?  There are certainly thousands or millions of names and addresses to be purchased – easily, in fact.  Emails, too – and phone numbers.  Adding to your list simply to have a large list is pointless, however.

If you are able to find a list of like-minded individuals with a tendency and/or history of supporting similar organizations, you’ve made a good buy (or swap).  Otherwise, you’ve merely cluttered your database with data.  You can also further refine and target your database with such tools as wealth screening before and careful tracking after.  The same principles apply to social media.

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Who Wants To Play A Game?

Of course, Facebook Credits were born out of the popularity of their online games, and the idea that people could “donate” some of these credits just sitting in their “virtual banks.”  If the circumstances are right, the right corporate sponsor can be beneficial, certainly, and it’s clear that the gaming industry has a much wider market penetration than ever imagined previously.  However, Facebook has never shown itself to be philanthropic.

In August 2009, it was announced that Facebook Credits would be offered to four non profit test partners: World Wildlife Fund, Kiva, Project Red and Tom’s Shoes, trumpeting the news that this would open the doors for non profits to expand into this realm.

A year later, not one of these four has Facebook Credits available on their Facebook pages.

Nothing But Nets, which is currently paying the 30% rate, actually does have an online game – but it’s available on their site, instead of their Facebook Page.  It would seem that once organizations give Facebook’s various donation apps a try, they wisely conclude that control of their messaging – and driving traffic to their site is most successful.

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Fans For Sale, Cheap

With Facebook in particular, we half a billion users are bought and sold again and again in more ways than most people realize.

Since I work in a marketing field, I anticipated this somewhat, refusing to give Facebook much demographic information at all, and actually tried to mislead them whenever possible.  I entered my grandmother’s birthday when DOB was required: 1903.  Facebook responded, “Enter your real birthday.”  Hmph.  Well, I yielded on that, but not much else.

Whenever I go to a friend’s wall to wish them a happy birthday, Facebook already knows why I am there and defaults with a larger “wall window,” offering me a plethora of items I can purchase, to go along with my birthday message.  (No thanks.)

Friends of mine – women in particular – lament that their ads are irritatingly stereotypical.  If they are single, they are bombarded with various dating service ads.  Engaged?  Wedding planners and bridal boutiques.  Married?  Clearly, you’re trying to get pregnant, then.  And on it goes.  One thing is consistent for all women, however:  You desperately need to lose weight!

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What Message Do You Want To Send?

When your organization allows most transactions to take place on another site such as Facebook, not only are you giving up contact information and the ability to further cultivate that relationship, but you are also relinquishing all control over the messaging about why someone should contribute, what happens to the gift, and so on.

Mark Zuckerberg has stated outright on several occasions that he doesn’t really see the need for privacy any longer.  The platform that your constituents spend the most time on wields the impression that will stay with them the longest when they think of you.

Social media can be a powerful means, but your message about your mission should be the end.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

Fix It Or Forget It?

Friday, August 6th, 2010

This week’s Fix It Or Forget It? anecdotes deal with managers who are either too obsessed with or grossly unaware of their employees and surroundings – to the detriment of the workplace environment.

April* had a director who felt the need to be as friendly as possible all the time.  At first, this didn’t seem like a bad thing, but her chumminess felt odd after a while.  When space became limited and the entire department had to move to cubicles, the director was given an office but declined, opting to take a cubicle alongside the rest of her staff, to be closer to them.

The friendliness began to feel more like monitoring, when the director handed out lists of acceptable cubicle foods.  She made it obvious that she listened to this or that private phone call – and felt free to advise staff on a variety of personal circumstances she overheard.  April began to notice that she even made trips to the bathroom at the same time, and felt the need to discuss business while in the stall next to her!  If the director exited the stall first, she’d wait outside the door for April to exit, so they could continue the conversation!

April suspected that her emails were being watched as well, and took care never to say anything remotely negative on her work computer about the director, organization, etc.  This “Big Brother” environment got to be too much, however, and she decided to Forget It! and I coached her on finding a new position.

After April had been in her new job for a few months, she told me that her suspicions on the email monitoring were confirmed.  She heard from some friends who were still in the department she’d left.  They had been emailing one another, complaining about the director.  The director’s response was to fire one of them and put the other on probation, due to their email content.

“Thanks for your help with the job search,” she told me, “I’m so glad to be out of there!”

Benjamin* worked in the more technical aspects of marketing: collecting and analyzing market research data; however, he reported to a marketing director who didn’t quite understand his day-to-day duties.

Benjamin was often sent to meetings his director didn’t “feel like” attending, and assigned other tasks that didn’t fit the scope of his job description – either because his director didn’t grasp exactly what Benjamin did, or because his director simply wanted to dump the work someplace and didn’t care where.

For the most part, Benjamin simply did the added assignments and went to additional meetings, although it was frustrating . . . until he came across some documents he was assigned to file.  The documents revealed that he was paid far less than two counterparts with less education and lower job rankings than his at the organization.

Benjamin was angry at first, but at a loss as to what to do: Confront his director? Demand a raise and promotion?  Look for another job?  He had very low expectations that his director would resolve the situation amicably.

I helped Benjamin analyze his situation, and suggested an alternative he hadn’t considered:  He had actually made several good contacts, networking throughout the organization, while attending all of those “unimportant meetings” his director sent him to.  His director may not have realized or recognized Benjamin’s talents, but several others in management at the organization did.  I recommended that Benjamin Fix It! by contacting those managers and getting transferred within the organization to another position.

Another manager was pleased to have Benjamin and his talents on her team, and hired him within a couple of months, so his resume showed continuity within one organization, and Benjamin got a raise, promotion, and most important of all, recognition for this talents, along with meaningful assignments that continued to build his resume.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

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