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Web 2.0: Don't forget the business risks

Web 2.0--or its business cousin Enterprise 2.0--sounds great on the surface.

Web 2.0--or its business cousin Enterprise 2.0--sounds great on the surface. Who doesn't like lightweight applications, users who become de facto developers and content creators and authentic market intelligence? Businesses would be silly to not jump head first into these newfangled technologies right? Not so fast. There are big risks to companies both large and small and few are paying attention.

That's the message from Drew Bartkiewicz, vice president of technology and new media markets, The Hartford. Sure, Bartkiewicz, speaking at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York, works for a staid insurer, but he's spent 18 years in software and social marketing at BroadVision, Salesforce.com and United Technologies. He has been through Web 1.0 to 2.0 and everything in between. And his latest gig gives him some unique context: An insurer makes a living assessing risks. And there are big risks associated with these new technologies and few are thinking them through.

Think all of this Web 2.0 data--personal information, user content and behavioral targeting--is just an asset? Think again. It's a liability too.

More information means more data can be breached. Companies large and small could find themselves vulnerable to information malpractice. Meanwhile, viral marketing isn't all positive. Companies can have their reputations shredded and find themselves with little control over their brands. And do companies have a way for folks to change their social graph? Just think of the cringeworthy content those Millennials will have on the Web a decade from now when they are job hunting.

"There’s a digital hangover for people just throwing information out there putting everything online. They still think they have this sense of control. They are all public F-ing record," said Bartkiewicz, referring to Web 2.0 fans that put their entire lives online. Bartkiewicz added that Web 2.0 companies need to begin thinking about how they protect their users' history, opinions and social networks. "It's a necessary thing for Web 2.0 to enable self government. Don't let users do silly things. Don't let harmful acts unnoticed. Quality of privacy and security is fundamental to the retention."

Could a user with a wayward social graph sue a company later? You bet. Bartkiewicz noted that Web 2.0 case law is just beginning.

Bartkiewicz is so convinced that these risks need to be highlighted that he's writing a book called "Unseen Liability" due to launch next year. The point: Web 2.0 is either the sunrise of massive personalization or sunset on personal privacy.