At GroupSpot, we like to say “Just as privacy is a core value in your real life, GroupSpot makes it a core value in your digital life. We want you to check in, check out, and get back to your regularly scheduled life.”
If you’re in the group space and looking for privacy, you’ll find it at the heart of the user experience on GroupSpot. This was done by design and baked into every product decision from the beginning. We felt there was a need for a high contrast alternative to public platforms for groups.
Public platforms, especially those that are ad-supported, are under the spotlight these days and it’s no wonder why. There’s of course the privacy and data mining concerns, but then there’s the disturbing effects on mental health and wellness, dangerous predators and bad actors, and finally when it’s time to get a job, there’s background checks that require a complete scrubbing of your social media. What was once perceived to be fun and free are neither to a growing number of concerned users.
At launch, GroupSpot was nowhere near as robust feature-wise as it is today, so our early message was privacy on an ad-free, algorithm-free network. Though we had to be careful not to be labeled a private social media app. That characterization misses the target when the core value proposition of GroupSpot is bringing together privacy, utility, and community, something few have bottled up successfully. For us, social media represents advertising and attention, while subscription means direct payments and trust. We bet our future on the latter.
While privacy was a big driver and inspiration behind GroupSpot, especially those early days, the other key ingredient was utility. From the beginning, the metaphor was always the Swiss Army knife of group communications. The end goal was to arm admins with the most complete tool belt available on the market, one featuring world class utility. We’ve delivered on this promise and will continue to build and refine the tool belt.
But in all the creative design, the one thing that wasn’t fully anticipated was the sense of community that manifests in high trust, closed groups. It starts with making people comfortable, leading them to use their real name and photo, then naturally grows into engagement in the form of comments or chat. People let their guard down in high trust groups and have real conversations. Community building is a powerful ingredient in running an organized group.
So what does privacy mean to GroupSpot?
Privacy on GroupSpot goes well beyond offering an ad-free and algorithm-free network. Yes, that’s an important headline, but there’s so much more that gets done on an everyday basis. Privacy is in our DNA. It’s in our bloodline. Here’s a few examples of how privacy filters through your everyday experience on GroupSpot:
When you create an account on GroupSpot, the only thing required is a single name and an email. We don’t even require you to share a full name which drives some admins nuts. But GroupSpot doesn’t need this information. Therefore, we don’t collect it. We aren’t mining your data and offering it up to the highest bidder. Your private information is just that, private.
When you start to explore, you’ll find that most GroupSpot personal privacy settings are defaulted off. This includes your profile information and profile visibility. Making your private contact details available on GroupSpot is a two step-process by design. Step one is updating your profile and step two is turning on which private contact details can be seen only by your group. And unlike other apps, this personalization can be done on a group-by-group basis.
This same treatment goes for notifications too. Full transparency, we’ve defaulted a few important things on like admin announcements, new post creation, and chat, but only through banners and badges. No emails. Email notifications are defaulted off because we understand that no one needs more email.
Speaking of emails, we’ve taken caution not to bombard our current membership with email. It’s as simple as knowing how corporate email makes us feel. You buy a product, they start sending you emails that you didn’t ask for, and you quickly unsubscribe or report it as spam, or even worse, block them. So being aware of this vicious cycle, we’ve been mindful about the email we send you... We will never bombard you.
Privacy is so ubiquitous across GroupSpot that it informs backend product decisions too. So naturally, this topic came up as we searched for sophisticated tools to measure our growing analytics and provide insights to our business. While there are plenty of vendors willing to tackle this for us, few would do so without looking to mine the data of our membership, something we were not comfortable with. So we made the decision to only work with a third-party service provider that will contractually protect our most important membership data. Your privacy is that important to us.
What we’ve learned in a short period of time is that privacy deserves the utmost respect and attention. It’s taken a beating the last fifteen years, but people are finally fighting back. People like thought leader and tech ethicist, Tristan Harris, and brave whistleblower, Frances Haugen, now have a voice and are leading the way. Ethical tech is a full blown people movement. And even if you don’t read, go watch the Social Dilemma and I promise you’ll never forget the saying: “If you’re not paying for the product, you’re the product.”
How a company handles privacy in their everyday decision making process is a good indication how they will treat and respect your privacy and that of their customers. If you look at the decisions we’ve made at GroupSpot around privacy, I’m proud of the choices we’ve made, and you should feel comfort in that we’re constantly looking out for your best interest. To reiterate, just as privacy is a core value in your real life, GroupSpot makes it a core value in your digital life.