I was taught long ago that opening a paper with a definition is the easy way out when it comes to shaping your argument, so I apologize in advance to all of those former professors who may be offended. But alas this is a definition that has been twisted so much recently, that I had to look it up for myself.
- the state of being private; retirement or seclusion.
- the state of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one’s private life or affairs: the right to privacy.
Yes with the recent major changes quickly coming to the Facebook universe, its no surprise that privacy has again become a hot topic amongst bloggers, more bloggers and even the U.S. Senate. And while this backlash isn’t unexpected, it certainly isn’t informed, needed, or even (in my opinion) right. See I think it can boil down fairly easily:
- We confuse the need for control with the right to privacy. As it says in the definition we have the right to stay private. However this flies in the face of everything that we love about social networks. How can we demand privacy when most people will constantly tell the world what they had for dinner? A social network is built by openness. No, what we want is to feel secure about those updates. In this month’s Fast Company, Farhad Majoo does a much better discussing this problem going so far to say “We don’t give a flying tweet about privacy…we want some semblance of control over our personal data even if we likely can’t be bothered to manage it.”
- We fear what we don’t understand. I will be the first one to admit that I’m not sure how my data is being handled by Facebook within the new system. Of course I also don’t know how (don’t be evil) Google stores my recent searches, how much of my email is being scanned for advertising keywords or even how many times my FourSquare check-ins are being studied for accuracy. At this point we have to admit that everything we do on the web, is being read by some system and can be accessed at any time. While it’s not a pleasant thought, why else do we protest angrily anytime a new change is made? We just got used to the last one!
- We forget that at its core, Facebook is a business. Facebook has quickly become a communication portal that over 400 million people use across the world. While it’d be nice for Facebook to operate as an non-profit (I think having it be publicly funded would cause more issues), it’s just not going to happen. It’s costs millions of dollars to be the one of the most visited places on the web and it has to make money somewhere. We’ve all given our information to large companies in the past for lesser things than what Facebook offers, yet we always forget those instances.
It’s possible that Open Graph may make the web more powerful than it ever was before, but until we get through this privacy backlash, we won’t know. Instead of worrying about privacy, maybe we should think about why we are getting upset. If privacy is making you that concerned, Facebook will always let you delete your account!
What do you think about privacy issues within Facebook? Are you concerned?