Privacy Matters

by Stephanie Rewis on May 3, 2010

There’s been much talk in the techworld recently about the privacy changes at Facebook (FB). I wrote a note on FB for my non-tech friends alerting them to the changes, as well as giving them the steps to take to check, and change, their privacy options. Yet I hear some on Twitter saying, “In this day and age, does privacy really matter?”

Yes, privacy matters—if you desire it. I choose different services to use in different ways—purposefully. I expose differing amounts of information using various services based on how much they reveal and how I plan to use it.

On Twitter, I’m open. Anyone can follow and listen to me babble. But though I got engaged and married there, I don’t share private details that I feel might be dangerous to expose to the world at large. LinkedIn is a business-oriented site and thus, I connect there with anyone I know and can vouch for. On sites that share my location, like Gowalla, Dopplr, and now TripIt, I only friend and share information with people I actually know (usually I’ve met them IRL). 

Facebook is another story. It started out as a walled garden where I felt comfortable. It was a place where I could put my real email/phone/personal details because I had control over who was my friend and had access to my information. Yes, I have a lot of people in my friend requests that I haven’t accepted because I don’t know who they are. It’s nothing personal, it’s just the way I use that service. It felt cozy with about 700 work associates, old friends and relatives. A unique place in the big social world. But that was before.

Money, money, money

As happens in business, FB has now gotten greedy and decided to open more and more of our info to, not only other people, but also to search engines and advertisers for monetization. It’s one thing to start open—it’s quite another to continually change the privacy policy and expose things people didn’t originally intend. I know people on FB that can barely figure out how to use it, much less how to protect themselves. Facebook knows that and banks on it. That’s just wrong.

This week an employee stated that Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, doesn’t believe in privacy. Read more at Apparently Zuckerberg believes in making money from your identity—but without your original permission. Opt in is one thing, but he snuck it in through the back door. It gives the Facebook creep a whole new meaning.

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