Many start-ups and small businesses are thriving with the accessibility of social media and big data. These platforms are built on the intentional collection and sharing of information that wasn’t previously affordable. In fact, there are some truly powerful possibilities that were beyond imagination just a few years ago. With power comes great responsibility. Thus, companies that are built on these rapidly evolving platforms need to think about the following to keep growing in the future:

1. Age Matters

Kids, and their information, are usually protected heavily with good intentions. Some of these protections make sense and others are a reflection of the woefully obsolete law. Companies may not intentionally target kids, but can inadvertently become subject to the laws protecting kids. Keep in mind:

  • Intent doesn’t matter. Protections generally follow the user.
  • Implement safety measures. Include clear information in the terms of use  or privacy policy for a parent to take action if so desired.
  • Contests can be tricky. For example, considering running a sweepstakes with an award that a kid shouldn’t get (i.e. Beer, cars, etc)? Better make age a qualifying factor for participants…

2. Location, Location, Location

Big data and social media only works well if everyone, literally everyone, can access or contribute. The location of the user and their information can also mean that there are additional protections or notices that need to be given under their local law. For example:

  • California is different. Companies with sites that are used by its residents must provide a whole host of form and substantive notices on their websites. This is true even if the company isn’t located in California. There are hefty financial consequences to non-compliance.
  • Europe is a different continent. Literally, but also in terms of their privacy protections. Countries in the European Union are poised to toughen their already strong privacy requirements. There is also likelihood for the requirements to vary across each member state. Proceed with caution.

3. Smartphones Pose Challenges

There are a number of complications created by smartphones beyond the initial development challenges of most platforms. For example:

  • Calling someone on their cell requires express authorization. Failing to get the right approval before contact can get expensive quickly.
  • Texting users is even more expensive if you don’t receive the right authorization in advance.
  • Encryption doesn’t work across all versions or devices in the same way. Making promises you can’t keep can also be expensive.

4. Prepare for Change

Exit means acquisition. Companies that poise themselves for sale (whether intentionally or not) can lose value if their data cannot be sold. Avoid this massive value hit by implementing the most expansive policies possible from the beginning. 

Change happens. Address the unexpected by including a mechanism to bind existing users to any subsequent change. Thinking strategically now enables companies to cost effectively administer the change of terms while keeping pace with changing technology and company goals.