Facebook and Privacy – An Oxymoron?

Facebook and privacy are becoming mutually exclusive to each other.  You probably know that a few weeks ago, Facebook overhauled privacy settings for all of its 350 million users, setting the default to allow anyone to see anything about you (you can review this in the blog post “Friends of Duck and Cat and Facebooks New (non) Privacy” ).  Last weekend, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO made some statements that fanned the flames of the still hot debate over this. “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people … That social norm is just something that’s evolved over time”.  It is questionable whether we the people created the social norm or had it foisted upon us. Michael Arrington of TechCrunch conducted the interview and retorts that our privacy is “already really, really dead”.  He continues:

Everything we do, everything we buy, everywhere we go is tracked and sitting in a database somewhere. Our location via our phone, or our car GPS. Our credit card transactions. Everything. Honestly, a picture of you taking a bong hit in college is mice nuts compared to the mountain of data that is gathered and exploited about every single one of us every single day. You just don’t really see that other stuff because those companies don’t like to talk about the data their gathering. I don’t see an Equifax blog post outlining exactly how they are gathering and selling your information, for example.

 Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb, however, feels that Facebook is moving away from the origins that made it what it is today. Those origins being that you would be sharing with your friends and users whose friend requests you honored – and those are the only people with whom you would be sharing.

All of this begs the point, though.  While Facebook gives you the choice to reset your privacy settings back to where they were, it has removed the choice for a lot of what it makes available to advertisers, search engine indexing and other entities from whom it might make money. Of course, neither Facebook use, nor privacy upon it are guaranteed rights.  You have the option not to exist there. But it would be a shame if that were your only option.


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