Ten Things to Consider about Facebook Privacy Issues

by francine Hardaway on December 11, 2009

For the past few days, I've been reading about Facebook's new privacy settings. I've got mixed feelings about them, but on balance I believe  the ultimate tradeoff of privacy for information as a good thing. I also believe it's an unstoppable thing, no matter what the ACLU and EFF say. So we have to coalesce our thoughts around this new shift in our lives. Here are some things to consider as you accept Facebook's suggested settings, which  most everyone will by default.

1) It's all about who you friend. There are certain settings that are defaulted to "friends of friends." These, IMHO are the interesting ones. While you may now be in college and the friends of your friends are your classmates or the girls in another sorority, later on they might be pretty unsavory, those folks at two removes. Sometimes our classmates grow up to be porn stars, Bernie Madoffs, or investigative reporters. Ten years from now is when the danger appears, because information on the internet never dies, even if you wish you did.

2) Facebook is about them, not about you. Just as many unsuspecting teens thought Tom really was their friend on MySpace until he got booted, today's Facebook users identify with the uncomfortable-in-public, shy Mark Zuckerberg.  But don't be fooled. Facebook is going to go public or get sold or something, and the value in the company is going to be the use of the information it has been collecting about all of us. It's not just a matter of putting ads against that information, either.

3)What generation are you in? That's a big determiner of how much privacy you need and want. If you are my age, your life can easily be lived in the open, because you are not looking for a husband (wife) or a job. Seniors have a lot of freedom to reveal things, because they have to impress no one.  And seniors are a fast=growing group on Facebook. But teens often want privacy from parents and grandparents, and Gen X doesn't want to distress a future employer, especially in this market.

3)On the other hand, most younger people I know have grown up on the internet and don't see privacy as any great desirable thing. They are in the habit of sharing information. Privacy suddenly gets more desirable when you grow up to be Tiger Woods, however, and that's difficult to predict.

4)Your information is everywhere anyway . The data trade is the hallmark of the "Information Economy." Behind every service you use, from Google to Facebook to the Department of Motor Vehicles, there is an industrial database where your information is aggregated and sold, either with or without your name attached. Blind data is used by marketers, researchers, and criminals,

5) There are really good reasons to give up your privacy. Ask anyone with a serious illness about which not everything is known.  These people are hunting all over the internet for people who are willing to share their experiences with similar conditions.  In fact, ther'es one drug interaction  site, i-Guard, that has aggregated so much shared information on side effects that its information is used by drug companies to monitor the after-market performance of their products.

6) The push toward opening walled gardens of data is overwhelming. This is a complicated issue, but information really does want to be free, and that doesn't mean you can't charge for it.  In fact, the "free-est" (i.e. most complete) data is the most valuable. To everyone. Even to you. When you get into a relationship or take a job, don't you want to know as much as possible about the situation you are getting into? If the company hides from you that it has only three months of runway when it hires you, don't you feel cheated. Just as you feel when you learn that your husband is having not one, but eleven affairs?

7) Confession is as natural as deception. As humans, we are pulled by both the need to confess and the need to keep certain things private. And that's a very individual decision, just like some people pee with the bathroom door open at home, and some cannot. These are the negotiations you have with someone when you live with them.

8) The internet is a mirror of the human race. We created the internet, and it's a reflection of us, our needs, and our paradoxes and ambiguities. To some degree, we can control our privacy choices on the internet, but basically the best way to control them is never to give out the information in the first place. This is the premise behind closeted gays and people in the witness protection program. But life is limited and impoverished by too many choices in favor of privacy.  I know that's very philosophical, but it's appropriate here.
9) Information in the wrong hands can be very dangerous to those around you. People have been tortured and blackmailed by people who have information about them. David Letterman's an example. But what did he do? He removed the information's power over him by making it public.

10) But the free flow of information can also bring freedom and power. Only when their exploits were revealed did the horrible conditions at Abu Grahib come to an end. Same thing with Viet Nam and Guantanamo. Light finds dirt.

These are the things I think about as I contemplate what Facebook is heading for — openness. These are very, very important issues that most of the 350 million users don't think about. Are you thinking about any others?

Posted via email from Not Really Stealthmode

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Friend Adder Elite December 11, 2009 at 7:40 pm

That sounds very realistic and scary on the other hand. Thanks for the information.;)

iguard December 12, 2009 at 1:55 pm

The link for iGuard is http://www.iguard.org Thanks for letting people know about us!

uggs outlet December 17, 2009 at 3:45 am

Nice post here. It does make senses, appreciate for sharing.

wangshumei January 29, 2010 at 10:16 pm

The data trade is the
Uggshallmark of the “Information Economy.” Behind every service you use, from Google to Facebook to the Department of Motor Vehicles,

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