Where Does Your Loyalty Lie?

I was reading the expose in the Wall Street Journal on how Facebook applications have been discovered to be sharing more information about the users of those applications than people may have realized. This is not the first time, and I suspect not the last time, that the giant social networking site will be criticized for its poor handling of user data.

Perhaps the reason for this is that the loyalty of Facebook is not placed where users of the site would like it to be. While one may dispute whether or not the slogan is accurate, the Google slogan:

Do no evil.

it is nonetheless indicative that the company claims, at least, to have the best interests of its users in mind. That is, decisions are presumably being made on the basis of how that decision could be perceived in a negative light, and whether or not that is an acceptable means of handling the situation.

Other companies, though, place their loyalty in the almighty dollar. As such, the implications they look at are relatively short-term, as they pursue increases in profits. Another way of looking at this loyalty is as a loyalty to the shareholders, who are generally concerned with the value of their holdings in the company.

The result of this loyalty perspective is that people in the company become aware of what might or might not be acceptable practice. This has downstream implications that even the people in the company may not be aware of until it’s too late. As an example, I don’t believe that Mark Zuckerberg is trying to abuse the data which users have entrusted to his site’s care. However, the fact that he (or more precisely, his company) has allowed such abuse to occur repeatedly in a variety of manners indicates the lack of importance that such trust occupies.

In other words, Facebook has indicated repeatedly that it only cares about its users data, and the protection of people’s privacy, only to the extent that they have been mandated to do so. The Canadian Privacy Commission required certain changes, and they were made. However, other violations of people’s privacy continued to occur, and until they were caught, they remained unfixed.

When your loyalty does not lie with your customers, then the trust they should place in you should generally be limited to the value that the item entrusted is valuable to the person or entity with whom the company’s loyalty does lie.

Are you placing your loyalty in your customers, or in someone else? Are the people around you aware of where your loyalties lie?