In Plain English: A Look At the Privacy Policy for Eons.com, the Not-Quite Facebook for Baby Boomers

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Ever heard of Eons.com?

It’s not quite a “Facebook for Baby Boomers,” as originally intended, but the site seems to be getting a second chance at becoming the social network of choice for the 50+ crowd.

Just last month it was sold to a new company, and with fresh blood and new ideas, the new management has big plans to attract “spirited Boomers” to its site in droves.

Originally launched in 2007 by Monster.com’s CEO Jeff Taylor, the new owner is Continuum Crew, a San Francisco media services company.

In other words, this means the so-called “transparent” company is now literally owned by an advertising agency. So when it seeks consumer opinions, or encourages you to share in message boards and chat rooms, it makes you wonder how that information will be sold, sliced, and diced for the almighty dollar.

However, Lori Bitter, President and CEO of Crew Media, wrote a message to the Eons community shortly after the acquisition was announced in April:

“You may be worried that this means you will be inundated with advertising messages you don’t want or need. Our goal is to improve the quality of the messages you receive. We need advertising support to help us keep the site as you want it, but we also want to provide opportunities for advertisers to engage with you, get your opinions, and provide better products and services,” she wrote.

On the advertising side of Eon’s business, Bitter said clients (read: online advertisers!) are always asking what people care about and want to understand how they think (read: what will turn them into a customer!).

That’s why she said the new company wouldn’t be changing, but instead would seek even more opinions and ways for customers to talk back to the advertisers who are tailoring member emails and ads. But do members really want that? And at what cost to their privacy?

After all, as the online community for Baby Boomers and beyond attracts users to chat, play games, keep a profile, ask questions, keep in touch with friends, share photos, and do what every other person on a social network does, the looming questions are, “Am I safe? Is my privacy going to be violated? Is there a privacy policy? How is it enforced?”

Staying Safe

Posted on its website, the Eons privacy policy covers the following:

  • The information it collects and uses.
  • What it shares and discloses, and why and to whom.
  • What “cookies” and “web beacons” are and how it uses them.
  • How to update and delete your account information.
  • How you will be notified of changes to its Privacy Policy.
  • How and whom to contact if you have questions or suggestions regarding its Privacy Policy.

An interesting distinction from numerous other privacy policies is how direct Eons.com is about what the privacy policy does not cover. Kudos to the Eons.com team for pointing out, in bold, no less, something that other popular social networking sites don’t explain quite so clearly:

“It’s also important to note that this Privacy Policy does not apply to information that you post, yourself, in public areas of the Eons website. For example, if you choose to let other people see your name, your LifePath™ and your answers to the other Profile questions or if you post information or comments on a discussion board, that information will be made public. Your messages and other information you make available in public areas of the Eons website will be seen by people and organizations not related to or controlled by Eons, and may be used by others to contact you.”

In plain English? When you voluntarily share information, don’t expect protections from Eons.com’s privacy policy.

That may be harsh, but at least they’re truthful. That includes your username, anything shared in your personal profile, comments in message boards, journal entries, chat-room discussions, and user-group conversations. All of that could be publicly displayed and/or used by a third party person or advertiser; that communication is not protected, so member beware.

While Eons.com is mostly transparent with how members can update their account information and privacy preferences, there are some less-transparent details to note:

  • Transparent. Members can update account information, including biographical and profile information, at any time, by going to the Account Settings page and clicking the profile tab.
  • Transparent. Members are given the choice to opt out of receiving advertising emails, but members are not allowed to opt out of Eons-related service announcements and administrative messages.
  • Less-Transparent. The privacy policy may change from time to time. The company says it will notify members about “significant changes” by sending a notice via email or by placing a prominent notice on the website. So, you may get an email. Or you may not. That means it’s ultimately up to you to pay attention to privacy changes. The company may or may not actually email you to share the news directly.

Overall, its privacy policy is better than most, but Boomer beware: if a site is owned by an advertising company, chances are good that everything you share, and everything you do on its site, will appeal to online marketers hungry to share targeted advertising with you.

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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi’s manager of digital content strategy.