Privacy Reboot Needed

Dens co-founder of @foursquare

I’m sitting in a talk listening to Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare (that’s a photo of Dennis during the talk above). I’m sure you’ve heard of Foursquare, but with it we check in.

In the building there are 101 other people checked in. Keep in mind this is NOT New York. It is NOT London. It is NOT San Francisco. It is freaking Omaha, Nebraska!

On stage Crowley is explaining where Foursquare came from. One slide he has is when he took a trip to Denmark he posted a map of where he’d be going onto Flickr. Within minutes he had dozens of comments from his friends giving advice of where he should go.

People ask me why I friend everyone on Foursquare (I have more than 7,000 friends, all added manaually). That is exactly why: my life has gotten much richer since everyone shares where they are located with me. Many even share their phone numbers, Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts.

This sounds like the worst thing for privacy ever, right?

It is.

But I find that we’re also finding out a new construct of what privacy means.

I really love danah boyd’s thoughts on radical transparency. She says that most people don’t want to be radically transparent like me.

But yesterday Gary Vaynerchuk said you will check in if you get free beer. Damn straight!

People are already checking in before the free beer has arrived.

And that gets to the heart of our new privacy construct: we will share our privacy +if+ we get something in return.

Most of the compelling arguments I’m hearing about Facebook is that Mark Zuckerberg has forced us to share something private WITHOUT giving us the “free beer” in return. Or, at least, Zuckerberg hasn’t explained what we are getting in return for his throwing our privacy under the bus. Let me explain.

Facebook used to have a privacy setting that would let you hide your social graph (geek talk for who your friends are) from me. Today you can no longer hide your friend graph and some other profile details, like what kind of music you like.

See, this is why people think I’m on the wrong side of the privacy problems Facebook is having. I see that there are real benefits to being radically transparent and so do many people (more than you would think).

But on the other hand, I think Zuckerberg is wrong to rip away something we thought was private and give that over to the world without properly explaining the “free beer” we’re getting in return (or, even, giving us a choice in it).

That said, Facebook is a free service that I don’t control. Neither do you. The only control we have is whether we use it or not. I’ve decided to use it, but have already gotten ahead of Zuckerberg: I’ve turned every privacy setting to “as public as possible.” If Zuckerberg wants to make Facebook as public as Twitter or as public as Foursquare, I’m cool with that, but will not use it to store anything private.

I think we need a reboot on what privacy is in this new world and when we need privacy.

And, as radically transparent as I am with tools like Foursquare and Twitter I still need privacy. I still need to know that Google won’t take my email into public. Some people have called me a hypocrite because I won’t share my Gmail password. They are right. There are some things that we need to keep private.

I interviewed Maryam (I’m her husband) the other day about how she approaches privacy on Facebook. She has a nuanced view of it. If Zuckerberg throws her privacy under the bus (she hasn’t perceived that he has, yet, you should listen to what she says about Facebook — her views match more what I’m hearing from most people, not the pundits) she’ll change her behavior.

She is clearly willing to give away some of her privacy (she doesn’t care, for instance, that you know what restaurants she’s liked on Yelp — she sees that as different than photos of our kids or discussions of our life).

The thing that Zuckerberg needs to explain is why we should believe that Facebook won’t take even more privacy away in the future. I believe Facebook HAS lost a lot of trust here and has overstepped the line. It took me a couple of weeks to get there because I live such a public life and I don’t use Facebook to store anything private (I really do wish Facebook had an even more public setting than it already has for the same reason I use Foursquare — I see that by being public my life gets better). But Zuckerberg did overstep the line by not giving us the choice and, worse yet, not giving us the free beer in exchange for throwing our privacy under the bus.

So, where do we go now? It’s clear Facebook is something different today than it was six months ago. Something a lot closer to Twitter or Google Buzz. Let it all hang out baby! And that’s cool, I’m still going to use Facebook and so is Maryam. It still is a very valuable service. But it is clear that Facebook can’t be trusted with really private data in the future. It’s not Gmail or Hotmail.

What is the reboot we all need?

1. We need to realize that putting anything onto a computer COULD become public. Even private emails COULD be dragged into public view. Jason Calacanis had an email dragged into public view that I’m sure he didn’t want put into public view. At Microsoft I learned that anything I put on a computer could end up on the front page of the New York Times (several executives had that happen). So you are always safe if you never put anything on a computer you aren’t willing to see in the New York Times.
2. We need to get over our “privacy.” Services like Foursquare show that there’s a lot of benefits over sharing your previously private info. Even Facebook now is showing me music on Pandora from my friends. That’s freaking awesome and a major side benefit of Zuckerberg throwing your privacy under the bus.
3. We need more skills to understand the impacts of sharing online. Early adopters need to explain the pros and cons of sharing better. I’ll try to do more of that in the next few weeks.
4. If Facebook wants to be trusted it must make a privacy contract with its users that will have real consequences if Zuckerberg throws it under the bus. I don’t know what that looks like. This is why the alternatives to Facebook just don’t matter either. They all could break their privacy contract with us. Even Google or Microsoft could and we all know it. So, we’re just going to have to live in this new world where privacy is a myth.

How do we have that privacy reboot?

Now, excuse me, I need to check in on Foursquare, join me there as I throw my own privacy under the bus.

Comments

  1. “facebook is a free service”

    No, facebook is an ad based service. They make money from the users and we ought to remember that the users make money for these sites just as users coming through your site can make you money. No one would be making such sites if they couldn’t make money off the users! Thus the users, as always, are the source of income. No users, no income.

    It seems that often people (usually site owners) want to reverse that and make it, ‘the site is free therefore the site shouldn’t care one iota about the users because the service is free and the user has no right to ask for anything or expect anything,’ but it really isn’t free. That’s like saying network television is free. While technically true the watcher pays with his/her time watching advertisements and ultimately buying products. . . same with online sites.

    With that in mind, it would be nice if sites actually treated the users as if they were “paying” customers because without the flocks showing up the site makes nothing. If the service was truly free then Facebook would have a $0.00 revenue. They make money off the users whether directly or indirectly and a lot of it.

  2. “you are always safe if you never put anything on a computer you aren’t willing to see in the New York Times”

    True, but that means we can never use a computer as our own private notebook. And it means we cannot use it for many work-related matters.

    So its not really a practical rule, as ALL of us do use a computer SOMETIMES for these things.

    Do you have an idea on how to split your life between public and private and still use a computer for both?

    My take is we need a layer of tech that allows us to assume privacy, when we want it. And that layer needs to live in the internet (and on computers) as a full-fledged citizen.

    Thanks for your stimulating thoughts.

  3. I think that the Internet is really evolving right now. No, scratch that, it’s not the Internet that’s evolving, it’s society in general. Radical and forced transparency is the new normal. I think that http://www.dirtyphonebook.com and others that open up previously private personal information are just reacting to how expectations among the youth have changed. This is what the world is going to be in a couple years. I just think that the media is out of touch with how young people are used to sharing everything.

  4. Robert,

    So here is a question then…

    do you care if people know where you live?
    when you are not home?
    who your significant other is?
    who your kids are?
    what you home address is?

    get my drift?

  5. Privacy has become a form of virtual currency. We opt into sharing information when we feel it benefits us. Being forced to share info and not getting “free beer” as Gary mentioned is grounds for getting your castle torched in a an uprising. Facebook and social web sharing companies live and die by the way they handle our data. If google opted your mail into business partnerships with Facebook without permission we'd cry bloody murder and try and nuke our accounts.

    Businesses that act as intermediaries for our communication need to be transparent about future data sharing partnerships apriori. And we better damn well get our “free beer” (or iced coffee in my case).

    Glad to see you wrapped your head around this one Robert. It was a big contortion of perspective for “the Internet with legs” kinda guy like yourself who lives a very public facing life.

  6. The free beer metaphor is the wrong way around. Think of walking into a pub for a free beer, and half way down your pint being told that from this moment on, you are required to donate an organ for this free beer.

  7. We get it Robert, you give away your privacy, you get a free beer. Am I the only one who would prefer to retain my identity over a free beer? Or is everyone out there a common thronging grey mass craving for our personal free beers over our freedoms. If I was in my early twenties (I am not) I might be tempted as the opportunity cost would seem low, but boy might I regret the common knowledge shared from my youth when I got to my forties, all the king's horse and all the king's men could not put my privacy back together again. You start by admitting that “Zuck” has overstepped the line (good) and end by stating alternatives do not matter (bad). The point is the alternatives DO matter just as facebook and google mattered when there was only myspace and yahoo search. We need to remain dynamic as a society and respond to threats to our freedoms. On your last point I could not disagree more. I can guarantee you that if Microsoft had done what facebook has just done, under the guise of a “responsible” social network they would have got crucified by both the regulators and the public. Besides the consolation you offer that everyone is equally evil and so we should down arms, unfortunately, is not a strong argument. Schumpeter's creative destruction teaches us that in a dynamic society there should always be alternatives. I say, let the creative juices to find those alternatives continue to flow.

  8. Robert,

    Great analysis of privacy in the new world. The one thing I'd like to comment on is your take on data being public on computers. Any data COULD be public – phone lines can be tapped, your apartment can be searched (who said iPhone?), and your letters may be duplicated or stolen without you knowing that. However, tapping your line, searching your computer, those things require court warrants (or illegal actions.) I still believe that my data on my computer is private. For Christ's sake – I keep my bank statements there – I hope the public cannot see my loans ;0
    Therefore, if you choose to be public on FB that's cool. Just let me decide what I want to share and what not.

  9. Providing something of value is no substitute for obtaining an explicit agreement on any changes to a social contract. Also, not everyone likes beer. What is needed is some sort of bill of rights that social networks adhere to in order to receive a stamp of approval by a respected third party organization. I remember the talk of a commenter's bill of rights a while back but unfortunately that went nowhere. Facebook is not only losing the trust of its users but it is also risking its demise in another way. I bet most of the best content was generated by Facebook users when they believed that their privacy was being protected. Once that belief evaporates I think users will be less inclined to submit interesting personal content and the info streams will be less relevant to others and Facebook's dominance will be history.

  10. I appreciate your take on this issue, as well as danah's; I'm not sure I completely agree about the beer analogy, but privacy concerns are definitely framed within what is taken for granted in a social contract which is largely assumed by both parties involved (eula or no eula). We have more invested in our social networks than we can take out of them, and this is frustrating. We are exposed without necessarily exposing ourselves, so we have the choice to live with it, leave it or completely embrace it.

    Coming from an Agile development background, I'd like to draw a parallel with one of the fundamentals of the Agile methodology – “just enough.” The Agile methodology breaks down when applied to security models because “just enough” is dangerously close to “not enough,” and it appears the same applies to privacy. If the privacy provided by a site privacy changes dramatically from iteration to iteration, and particularly if the effects of this are not well understood, it leads to uneasy clients.

    This is a tough topic. On the one hand, if your social network is entirely public, it is in effect backed up by the web as a whole (not to mention Internet Archive), so you need not be restricted to a single social network, and transition is easier. This is of course a catch-22.

  11. Personally what is so damn private about your business anyway? Dennis and I were just talking about that. He tells people what his future product plans are. Will his competitors steal his ideas? Maybe, but in both of our experiences, actually no.

    I've had my drunken photos printed in Techcrunch. I wasn't really all that happy about that, but, guess what, I survived and nothing bad happened. In fact, if anything, I've gotten invited to even better parties!

    The world is clearly changing and our attitudes to privacy are clearly changing. Is that all good? No. Is it all bad? No. But it is.

  12. >>> The world is clearly changing and our attitudes to privacy are clearly changing. Is that all good? No. Is it all bad? No. But it is.

    Exactly. Only, as you point out, @average_joe and @plain_jane067may not be aware of how these things are changing just yet. Maybe there's an app for that?

  13. The world has got used to change, Robert.. But it has to be change with consent. Have you seen “Mars Attacks”, when the aliens descend onto the planet, emerge and announce “we come in peace” shortly before blasting everyone out of existence with their ray guns? Remind you of anyone?

  14. I don't make all of my FB content public, but instead have a layered system. My profile page is public, as I want people I know to be able to find me. My wall page is limited to friends of friends, as I believe that gives people more confidence about whether I'm a) the real 'me', and b) someone they want to be friends with. My photos are for friends only. My personal info is reserved for close friends – I've created a group specifically for that purpose, containing only those people I feel comfortable giving my phone number, etc. out to.

    I do share a lot of stuff from other places (YouTube, Care2, HuffPo, eMusic, AmieStreet, Digg, etc.) where I have other accounts, thanks to Facebook Connect – and I do value that, as do a lot of my friends. That said, I've turned of Personalization for the time being, mainly because it doesn't currently provide any immediate benefit to me. But if, say, Last.fm were to become a partner and offered to make it easier for me to both share my music listening with my FB friends and find out what they like, I would definitely consider it!

  15. Actually, the Patriot Act allows the government to search your computer, your home and tap your phone without a court warrant or even without notifying you that they're searching or monitoring it. All they have to do is SUSPECT you are a terrorist or threat to national security and they can do that. Who do they consider a terrorist? Well, they search 90 year old grandmothers, put soccer moms on the do-not-fly list because of a newsletter, or consider any US veteran with PTSD a threat and are trying to get legislation enacted to forbid ANY military veteran with PTSD from ever owning a gun – banning them for life. So, if the government can consider those folks as potential terrorists, why wouldn't they look at you?

    1. Prone to hyperbole much? Actually, the bar is higher than you pretend it to be. The government has to have a reasonable suspicion, not just a suspicion. There is a difference.

  16. I agree with you Scobleizer, I think that we should be responsible when dealing with social media. No one said that you HAVE to post a certain location, idea, or picture. We all have certain risks each and everyday. Example, when you are driving down the street to get groceries your life is possibly at stake, anyone can break into your home if they so choose. In this digital age things are changing, and if you can't come to accept it, then your going to get left behind. You must change with evolution, Charles Darwin proved this best. I don't know about everyone else but I know how to attempt to protect my privacy, may not work but I shall give it my best shot to become innovative. To each action there is and always will be a reaction. And with all of these transparent social media tools soon there will be companies that will assist in protecting your information, just watch and see!!!

    1. now see herein lies the problem. you (and your family) are a tech savvy bunch. You obviously realised that having all that data published could cause a security issue und hence put appropriate measures in place.

      However, the majority of people on the net don’t have any of those qualities. Heck most people I talk to about Facebook privacy don’t have a clue and their eyes glase over when you talk to them about it. The problem starts when the data suddenly is misused/ abused by others. That’s when you usually hear “oh, I didn’t even know that was possible”.

      The real problem with all this to be honest is also that the majority of companies are simply not trustworthy. When times are fat they will promise you the world but trust me, when tough times hit they’ll sell anything they can get their hands on… even their first born.

      To give you an example. I use a catchall email for communicating with companies (ie. buying software licenses). I usually will sign-up with theircompanyname@mydomain.com. In some cases it took less than 24 hours before I started receiving spam on that email address. Even from reputable big name companies and yes, even when I explicitly told not to use my email address for markting or to hand it on to third party business partners. Not that I can why a software company would have a business relationship with a company selling penis enlargement products.

      So in a nutshell… the problem here is not that Facebook (and others) want to get lax on privacy. The problem is that those very same companies haven’t earned our trust yet.

  17. I have my issues with Facebook, but I did going in so what little I shared has been reduced to pretty much zipola. I just wiped out all of my personal info under my profile and deleted ads I didn't want on my page. It's not fun being a Facebook keystone cop but it does give me pleasure :) The one I think hypocritical, however, is Foursquare. And I realize all of you in the tech world will think that's like being some sort of heretic cause I'm messin' with the cool kids, but I question the wisdom of a group asking everyone to loosen up regarding their privacy and whereabouts when they don't have either an address or a phone number on their website. Call me old school, but when a group who encourages or is alive by the willingness of others to pinpoint their location for all the world to see and they can't even put their offices address on their website? Well look it up in an online dictionary: that's the very definition of hypocrite http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hypoc

  18. Robert – I just think you overstate the value of what you get from sharing. You're a lifelong Bay area resident – how many restaurants can there even be to discover? How much music is totally hidden from you unless it's shared by friends? You can discover music on Pandora without posting your preferences or reading your friend's preferences.

  19. Great thought provoking stuff. But I will note that you shouldn't be surprised when you are at a tech conference and other people are using technology like Foursquare. We non-Sillicon Valley people use Foursquare too.

  20. I totally agree with you, we need to realise that the web is not private and to only ever put up something we are happy for the world to see. As I tend to take responsibility for what's on any of my profiles I like you have maxed out my un-privacy and share with the world on all my profiles. Where I am careful is what I put on my profiles – very few shots of my family usually scenery, I keep a lot of my private stuff private by not placing it on my profiles in the first place –

    interestingly enough a couple of months ago just for fun I posted this comment “A big hello to the very bored FBI person who is monitoring our FB comments and Tweets, I hope this finds you well and that you have a lovely day”, now it is true that these agencies are monitoring our comments and conversations and I tend to believe even our private emails so I keep this in mind when playing on the net. But the response I got to this bit of fun had to be seen to be believed!! I had people private messaging me asking me if this was true and scared that they were now being monitored, and even phone tapped!! What the? I got a lot of others joining in the fun too..

    Bottom line – don't put your life on the net if you don't want others peeking in

  21. I agree, there is some utility to be able to search for restaurants and bars to hang out in and good music to listen to. But are you seriously suggesting that your gazillion “friends” provide a more connected and meaningful search tool than through a decent looking glass on the jillion reputable blogs and reviews that are openly available on the web? Lets face it we are not talking about your 7 closest buddies whom you trust intimately but 7 THOUSAND friends who want to earn a badge. My main point is this; the “public” aspect of the web is readily available and can be filtered by good search tools from willing contributors to online content. You don't have to go steal data of private individuals to get there. Having the potential for 0 privacy does not mean we should have 0 privacy. Basement ethics is where you should end up when the elevator pulley snaps, but you can still get out by walking up a flight of stairs. No sorry, not convinced, but then “Zuck” is not my personal friend.

  22. Privacy is just one aspect of Security (CIA – Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability) . I don’t know anyone saying that security is “so last decade” or “the security discussion is over”. If people mention the need for a security reboot – they don’t mean we should give just accept that there is no security – or that those who are pursuing strong security are in someway missing the bigger picture. No one says – “when you use the Internet you must accept that there will be no security.”

    Indeed “secure by default” is the guiding principle for most software design. Imagine if Microsoft suddenly released a mandatory patch that set all of the Windows servers of the world to unsecured anonymous access. Of course they then helpfully explain that it is possible to turn that security back on – you just need to work out how to do that yourself. There would be outrage. There is outrage today when security flaws are found even though they are actively trying to prevent those problems.

    Facebook could have announced a new feature to allow broader sharing. It could have been “private by default”. They could have explained how to enable the broader sharing. They could have made a determined and ethical effort to obtain informed consent from those who did choose to enable wider sharing, by explaining in layman’s terms the possible future consequences of that decision. Facebook did none of this – and their motivation is as obvious as it is selfish.

    Equally disturbing has been the defence of the indefensible by some pudits. Robert keeps putting up the straw man of “well _I_ like to share everything”, Which of course is not a counter argument at all. There is no reasonable extension from “I” to “everyone”. Or “like” to “enabled by default”.

    Facebook had options. It chose a path. A self serving and unethical path. That was their choice. Pundits such as Robert also have options. Support Facebook’s choice or criticize it and try to reverse it. These kinds of choices – what we do with our power and influence – define who we are. So far those definitions are starting to look quite unattractive.

  23. It is extremely tough when say this is an application that deals with client- *insert profession* privilege. Like your lawyer, or your doctor, or your banker. They need to share certain kinds of information to act in your interest- now how do you strip you out of it to obey the law?

  24. With 7000+ friends on Foursquare and a large social media imprint elsewhere- of those:

    How many can somehow buy/get/give a truly meaningful gift to you? There is a lot of information out there on you- yet I don't think your relationships with those people are defined purely by the information you share…

  25. When I read the NYTimes article where the Facebook PR rep Elliot Schrage answers readers' questions, I was struck by his citing his own profile and Zuckerberg's as the two poles between which he expects most people to be.

    Zuckerberg does not have any photos or Wall updates viewable (not after the Gawker debacle in December) and Schrage has even less information. Neither has their Friends list available.

    Most of the information about Zuckberberg viewable in his profile is information that is already widely publicized and available through his competitor, Google.

    So if even the PR guy thinks everyone is going to want to be somewhere in between the two profiles, why not make the defaults somewhere inbetween, too?

  26. Robert… The meaning of privacy sure has been abused lately!

    This while debate makes it seem like it's either all or nothing.

    Privacy is not black and white, it is not on or off. It has too many degrees to allow that.

    Every single person – yourself included – has information they will keep private. You might disclose your phone number, but I can't image you'd disclose your bank account access information. Nor would I expect you'd disclose your wife's bedroom behaviours.

    Some things are private. That is our private privacy.

    This debate is really about what you might call public privacy. Those things that we are willing to allow into the public realm.

    One thing I haven't seen you accept though is that this varies for everyone. That line between public and private privacy varies for everyone. And therefore it should always be “opt-in”.

    If you want to put yourself in the shoes of someone who wants privacy, imagine if things were in reverse. Imagine if FaceBook was doing the opposite – making everything more and more private and locked out from the world.

    All the privacy advocates would be going “woot!” and you'd be decrying the restriction of your right to be public.

    We are not all Robert Social of Socializer ;)

  27. Robert, it's good to see you having come around to the view that some privacy is still good for some things. Which is precisely what all of us speaking up about Zuck's moves have been saying all along. And while Dennis Crowley may tell people openly about Foursquare's business models, he's not exactly making all of his code open-source either, is he?

    The simple fact of the matter is that (restricted) access to information will always be used for a variety of purposes including monetary gain. All groups depend on a sense of insider and outsider as pertains to some information. And no, no one is ever talking about some absolute sense of privacy, which was unobtainable even before the Web as soon as two people or more were involved. It's about RELATIVE restriction of access.

    Which is why Facebook's “let's all be public” stance is at once so calculated yet also so dangerous in its outward naivete. If they truly believe that, then let them put ALL of their own INTERNAL/insider communications on the Web for all to see. All their internal stats, all of their psychographics research, asf.

    What's that you say? That would be preposterous? So there IS a need for (relative) privacy/secrecy/etc. after all… just apparently not in the contexts that upset Facebook users are currently describing to the company.

  28. I disagree. If people really cared about moving to other tools http://pip.io would be very busy (it has much better privacy controls than Facebook, either before or after these changes). Pip.io is not busy. Where else would people go? Twitter? Google Buzz? Orkut? Give me a break!

  29. Diaspora is a good example of something that people got excited about (with their mentions, links, shares, and even their money). I'm excited about Diaspora. But there's no way I'm leaving Facebook. Why would I? Facebook is great for MANY reasons (including the fact that most of my friends and family are on it and would never ever check-in or send me a tweet, well, at least not yet). I always knew FB was headed for more and more “openness” (remember how it opened up to univerisities, then everyone, then developers, then businesses, and now it's allowing us to better share through “Like” buttons everywhere). If Facebook doesn't continue to open up, it's in deep trouble in the long-term (someone pls go back in time and tell the team at AOL in the mid 90s). People need to adjust their settings and realize that Facebook is not utopia and it never will be. Neither is Google. Neither is any company. If someone is really upset about a free service, I suggest they try to do something about it (like the Diaspora team did) or simply learn how to adjust the settings (you don't need a PHD, just some patience I guess)… or quit Facebook (quitting online sites and services happens every day). I can't say for sure because the web is evolving by the second, but I think Facebook will be ok post March 31st (most people on FB will be celebrating “Have no idea it was quit facebook day so I'm still here”).

  30. Many readers of your blog seem increasingly to be noticing and in my view not getting why you are so staunchly defending the status quo and the hegemony of Facebook. As someone who has observed so much change over the last 10 years in social media, why do you believe Facebook is the end of the road? And why do your arguments go through unaesthetic contortions to defend its hegemony. Isn't competition a positive force for consumers? Or do you think we should all lay down and succumb to an unethtical monopoly which is intent on stealing our personal data. Please, give US a break, and start talking up the alternatives. Challenge FB might even change its behaviour for the good of the many (unlikely, in my view but a worthy goal nonetheless).

  31. Robert, people are lazy. But that shouldn't be interpreted as meaning, by implication of their laziness, they support or agree with something. I'm sure you've met plenty of people who bag the government and then don't vote. Until someone gets seriously affected by the reduced privacy, they'll grumble but not do anything to change the situation.

  32. +1 Mark. Well, Scoble DID work for Microsoft once, so maybe it's in his DNA… ;)

    Seriously though, to me Facebook is just overall pretty poor software. Yes, most of the other companies in the space have done even worse, so I guess one might say that FB has been winning by default. (Which BTW tells you something about the state of software creation for the past decade.)

    Seriously, in Facebook, where are any of the cool Curation tools Robert keeps dreaming about? Where are less dumb photo albums? Where are the more intelligent filtering options? I can see a wide opening for a more intelligent service down the road, with, say, the savviest 20% of Facebook users defecting there, and FB slowly turning into the next MySpace.

  33. Robert:

    Although I can understand the reasons for most of your comments and in many cases I can, in principle agree with you, I would like to mention a fact that is pretty relevant to this discussion.

    Don’t forget that doing what you do, disclosing a great deal of public information, is feasible, possible and safe if you live in the USA.

    A lot of us don’t. And doing what you suggest would be pretty close to suicidal.

    At least in Mexico, where is from where I write, Facebook has been mistakenly linked to many high-profile kidnappings. If you think Facebook has a public relations problem now, you should see the kind of things that the media has published here for years. Many persons would love to share information there with relatives and friends but are afraid of doing so because of the possible security risks to them or their families. I have devoted a lot of time explaining Facebook’s security setup and how to keep unwanted eyes on their profiles as I believe it is a useful service. However, Facebook is doing this more and more difficult every time.

    Being public is simply not an option in many parts of the world. It is a sad situation, but it is painfully true. Security and privacy in many countries can be a literal life-or-death issue, and having Facebook help us a little in that respect would go a long way to create not only user trust but greater expansion numbers abroad as people realize that FB is a safe alternative to contact people.

    Yes, user knowledge and common sense are still paramount but a little help from the platform would be indeed welcome.

    Regards from Mexico City

  34. This post seems a bit more reasoned and balanced than the one from May 8 about Much Ado about privacy on FB. Yet still people here raise valid counterpoints and objections. The bottom line is that unless the settings of a given service balance a common denominator among most or all of its users and then give them the option to change it as they see fit, it fails in the area of customer service and satisfaction given that not everyone agrees or subscribes to the same points of view about this topic. So follow the money. Who stands to gain monetarily from this grandstanding of smoke and mirrors about rethinking privacy on the internet or with a given service? Talk to all these corporations about information security. Are you telling me 4Square and FB dont have InfoSec/Security departments dedicated to protecting resources and privacy of corporate data and offices?!

    It is to the advantage of a business to share the things that will make them more marketable and “liked” by customers. Therefore it is disingenuous for a CEO et all to claim they have nothing to hide and will share all their information. They're only sharing what they want you to know. And so should you!

    In terms of the common denominator of user settings, not everyone wants to live like a celebrity or have their 15 minutes. The actions of sites like FB are promoting our society's all pervasive marketing driven cult of celebrity and vacuous drive for people to do anything to gain celebrity and attention via things like reality shows. The internet and FB et all are now one big reality show albiet quite orchestrated by the powers that be for their own benefit. Remember that while a winner of American Idol sacrifices their privacy in a real way for monetary gain like any other celebrity, regular people still have a choice and it can be found in the privacy and account settings on FB and what you choose to share or not or to simply opt out. Caveat Emptor!

  35. Privacy is exceedingly important. Companies love for you to think that your privacy is not worth much, but it is. There is going to be a backlash and it's not too far off.

    I like my privacy. A lot. I also like having friends, but my friends are all real people, not virtual friends. I have a real life in a real city. I have a real family. I listen to real music. I don't need someone to tell me what I should be interested in. I listen to the same stuff I grew up with and I couldn't be happier. There are very few new artists I find even remotely interesting. No one rocks like AC/DC and no one ever will short of them being cloned.

    I use Linux or one of the BSDs, I manage my own domain and email and I keep to myself. I can do a vanity search of myself on Google or any other search engine and come up with absolutely nothing at all. I don't want to be found, emailed, or texted by anyone I'm not already communicating with. I like being anonymous.

  36. Not everyone is like you (the Scobleizer). Now hold up a sec, I'm not going to flame or hate on you!

    Given that many don't have home security, nor fully understand the reach of W3, LBS and electronic data in general, they should know better and remember “Buyer Beware!”. But it all depends to what degree you feel that people need to be protected from their own actions.

    It is very easy to overshare online, and forget or be truly unaware of the potential reprecussions of one's actions, as most of us can't infer the progression of technological innovation. It isn't like deciding whether or not to have unprotected sex, where the potential consequences are very well-known to all.