Privacy vs. Relevancy in Social Learning

social learningIn most of my discussions around social learning technologies, the topic of security comes up in some fashion or another. Sometimes it is around the thought of proprietary information being “Tweeted,” “Instagrammed,” “Tumblred,” or otherwise set free into the ether. Other times, the discussion is around creating contextual learning experiences by using learner profile data. Learning leaders who are blazing the trail on personalized learning experiences say they are running into a brick wall when it comes to gathering enough data to make this a reality.

My typical response has been that this will change. Younger generations are extremely comfortable sharing almost any information to Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc., while reaping the benefits of a personalized experience. Over time, the resistance to sharing this kind of data will subside. Then comes the Facebook Messenger debacle.

App Uprising

For those who don’t know, Facebook decided to sever its instant messaging app from its main app for mobile users. This meant that in order to communicate via messenger, you had to download the app. The app came with a laundry list of permission requests that scared the bejeezus out of a large portion of the population, prompting an endless supply of Facebook posts, blogs, and news stories about how people were deleting the app or refusing to install it.

This taught me two things. One, the younger generation may not be as ready to shed their privacy as I thought; and two, these same people really don’t understand privacy enough to be worried about it in the first place.

The reality is that the permissions for Facebook Messenger are no more intrusive than the ones for the main app. But the hype machine picked up the app needing to have access to contacts, the microphone, the camera, call information, etc. It blew up into a conspiracy by Facebook to record you without your permission, among other things. The app needs these permissions, however, to do things like send video and audio, interrupt itself so you can answer a call, find people in your contact list, etc. Again, nothing new or insidious here that countless other apps don’t already have permission to do.

It appears that, simultaneously, people are willing to click “I Agree” on even the longest terms of service without reading it, yet freak out over rumors without researching them. The moral of the story: people don’t read.

The Real Implications

Kidding aside, there are real implications for companies trying to provide personalized learning experiences, which only about 16% of companies are trying to do at the individual level. In order to provide context, organizations are going to need an increasing amount of information, but they clearly have to be careful in how they go about getting it. One misstep, and people may refuse to use the tool or platform entirely.

David Wentworth, Senior Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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David Wentworth



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David Wentworth