Your healthcare privacy is dying and why you'll kill it

Two days ago I told my friends on friendfeed that I had a rare kidney disease and that I could no longer eat red meat or drink Diet Coke or Pepsi, among other dietary changes. Don’t worry, my dad has the same disease and he’s still doing fine, and the doctors have run a crapload of tests and found that I’m otherwise healthy.

But look what happened. 200+ comments.

That prompted me to write another friendfeed item saying that health privacy is dead. I gave a ton of reasons and lots of other people jumped in and either agreed or argued with me.

So, how about you? Why don’t you join in on these two threads, or leave a comment here, about why or why not you will share your medical condition with the public.

Facebook has a point where it comes to your privacy

My ex-boss, John Furrier, goes after Facebook after Facebook blocked Google’s Friend Connect from using its API to inport friends from Facebook into Google’s Friend Connect.

I saw Dave Morin, who runs Facebook’s developer platform, at Google’s event Monday night. You can see him at the end of the event where I shoved my cell phone in his face and tried to get him to comment. He refused.

After the camera is off he said it was “interesting” that Google had used Facebook as one of the examples during its launch of Friend Connect.

I guess it was a lot more than “interesting.”

They blocked Google because they didn’t want Google to populate its friend network with data collected from Facebook.

Oh, I know, that’s not the real reason they told TechCrunch and others. Here’s the official statement from Facebook.

Facebook is being consistent here. Dave Morin told me a few months ago all about Facebook’s concerns. Such as, what happens if you change your email address, will it change everywhere that your email address got copied to?

Clearly with Google’s Friend Connect the answer is “no.” Why? Because it was a one-time action and there was no live connection back to Facebook and Google’s Friend Connect’s data would get older and older (and more and more out of date). Want to delete your email address off of the Web? Sorry, thanks to other systems Facebook can’t ensure that’ll happen.

Now, I’ve been on both sides of this story. A few months ago I tried using some unreleased technology from Plaxo to do exactly what Google did on Monday night. I not only got kicked off of the API (which is what should have happened) but my account was hidden and I was locked out for about 20 hours.

Facebook’s “penalty” for that behavior was way too harsh. And, some, like John Furrier, believe that Facebook is on the wrong side of the line tonight again.

Me? I think Facebook has a point, but I think the horse is out of the barn already and Facebook won’t be able to shove it back in.

Why? You should check into Minggl. It’s a toolbar that does far more than what Google’s Friend Connect does.

But it does it in a way that Facebook will never be able to block. Why? Because it’s your browser that scrapes all your friend’s info into Minggl’s browser bar. That bar then uploads all that information back up to Minggl. There’s no way that Facebook will be able to block Minggl. If Google wants to push the issue they should do exactly what Minggl is doing.

To get geeky for a moment, Minngl is collecting that data with a separate IP address each time the same one your browser is using. If Facebook wants to block Minngl it’ll have to block you from browsing to Facebook. Facebook can’t do that to everyone, so Minggl has picked an architecture that makes it impossible for Facebook to block. At least using technical methods. I wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook tried to sue Minggl or other companies that use similar methods to collect data.

Privacy is dead.

Anyone who puts anything on a computer screen that they want hidden from public view should think again. I don’t think it can be stopped and the walled gardens that have built around Facebook and other social networks are temporarily walled at best. That data WILL leak out of the walls and already is. Facebook’s attempt to keep the walls up will prove unsuccessful.

Just ask former KGO Radio Talk Show host Bernie Ward. He was convicted of sending child pornography through email to someone else. If email isn’t a private medium then surely Facebook isn’t. (The person he was emailing those photos to emailed them to the authorities).

What do you think? Does Facebook have a point or is the horse already out of the barn?

UPDATE: This is being discussed at a much faster rate over on FriendFeed than over here.

UPDATE2: Google employee Kevin Marks says I’m wrong in comments here. Here’s his correction to this post: “Robert, you’re wrong about Friend Connect data getting stale. It’s fetched directly from your linked Friend Data sources, including other Social Networks, with short-term caching on Friend Connect servers. There is a live two-way connection – Friend Connect posts back events to the Social Networks’ activity streams when the user choses to do so.”

UPDATE3: Mike Arrington over on TechCrunch thinks I’m wrong on this post. But, if you read the comments over on his blog you’ll see we’re not that far apart.