Facebook CEO: People Don't Really Want Privacy Nowadays, Anyway

By Andrew Moseman | January 12, 2010 3:41 pm

facebook-webThere’s nothing like the launching a company from your college dorm room that achieves global Internet hegemony within a few years to make you think you can offer royal pronouncements about how the world has changed.

OK, so that was a bit melodramatic. But Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg earned some howls and guffaws in the last few days over his statements saying that, in a nutshell, people aren’t terribly interested in privacy anymore. Specifically, he said:

“In the last 5 or 6 years, blogging has taken off in a huge way and all these different services that have people sharing all this information. 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.”

Some have interpreted his comments as an indication that he thinks that privacy is over and that the depth of privacy you might have expected, say, five years ago is very different to that you should expect today [BBC News]. The privacy changes that Facebook  recently made—changes that ruffled plenty of feathers—seem to be in line with Zuckerberg’s statement. From last December onwards, all Facebook users’ status updates are made publicly available unless the user actively opts to change the settings and make [it] private. Users were alerted to changes via a ‘Notification’ posted in the bottom right hand corner of the site [The Telegraph].

The self-serving element of Zuckerberg’s statements wasn’t lost on some commenters, either. The more information that Facebook users share, the more information Facebook can vacuum into whatever ad-based revenue stream they’re debuting this quarter [The Atlantic].

Not everyone, though, was mocking the baby-faced CEO. Social networking is, by nature, anything but private. The fact is that if Facebook restricted and controlled the sharing of data the way some privacy groups would like, it wouldn’t really be a social networking site and it wouldn’t have over 350 million users willingly sharing information with each other. Joining a “social” networking site and then complaining that your information is being shared is like buying an ice cream sundae and complaining that it’s cold [PC World].

And as TechCrunch points out, credit-rating agencies have been making money by gathering an enormous database of personal information since long before Facebook existed. “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” [TechCrunch].

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Image: flickr / benstein


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