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The dangers of too much transparency

April 23rd, 2010

Social media is about transparency and sharing, and, given our recent economic crisis, “transparency” is often lauded as a GOOD thing.

Certainly, it is important to be open with our constituents, donors, board members, staff, etc. – particularly about policies, how their gifts are being used, etc.

However, I’ve explained this concept to my daughter as, “There’s a reason the truth is often referred to THREE ways:

•  the truth
•  the whole truth
•  nothing but the truth

When a report is late, for example, it usually suffices to explain that there are “database problems,” (the truth) rather than to explain to my director the specific querying functions that aren’t working, resulting in my deduping problems yielding soft credit, rather than hard credit totals, etc., etc. (the whole truth).

I could add some information about how this isn’t the first time that the database upgrade maintenance schedule has slowed down my ability to pull reports in a timely fashion, along with my thoughts on a better schedule, and so forth, but this wouldn’t really be relevant information to her initial request (nothing but the truth).  It’s pretty extraneous and opinionated.  Joe Friday also had a way to eliminate this:  “Just the facts, ma’am.”

When you’re working in social media, it’s best to consider the important distinction between #1 (the truth) and #2 (the whole truth), however.  There is a danger in revealing too much about one’s self these days.  Consider the following examples:

Facebook has changed their privacy policy (yet again!) so that, by default, they will share all users’ personal data with pretty much everyone – particularly advertisers – unless you understand how to find your settings and opt out.  This includes sharing your data with your friends, so that as they agree to various applications’ terms, those applications will pull all of their friends’ (i.e., YOURS) data and harvest it for marketing…UNLESS you know how to turn that off, too.  (See instructions on how to modify your settings.)

Storing your credit card number with various accounts, such as Amazon, PayPal, Blippy, etc., is marketed as a convenience, so that they remember you the next time you log on.  That way, you can shop without re-entering your information.  Giving this data to another company can make you vulnerable, though, and Blippy Users’ Credit Card numbers have appeared exposed on Google today, for anyone to view.

It’s certainly important to tell the truth…but not always the WHOLE truth!  Always remember that once you click [Post] or [Send] online, literally anyone and everyone can see what you’ve sent.  Count on it!

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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