“The age of privacy is over” – Why Marc Zuckerberg is wrong

In her great post, Danah Boyd – researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a Fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society – excellently explains why the reasoning made by Marc Zuckerbergs’ privacy statements is wrong.

Sure, social media has changed the way we communicate. However, just like in the real world there are scenarios where we want to tell certain people things others shouldn’t know about (and I am not talking about illegal activities).

The most important thing is that I want to have control over what I have to say and to whom I say it. And to make my content “public” should be the choice not the other way around. “Opt-In” instead of “Opt-out”.

Privacy isn’t a technological binary that you turn off and on. Privacy is about having control of a situation. It’s about controlling what information flows where and adjusting measures of trust when things flow in unexpected ways. It’s about creating certainty so that we can act appropriately. People still care about privacy because they care about control. Sure, many teens repeatedly tell me “public by default, private when necessary” but this doesn’t suggest that privacy is declining; it suggests that publicity has value and, more importantly, that folks are very conscious about when something is private and want it to remain so. When the default is private, you have to think about making something public. When the default is public, you become very aware of privacy. And thus, I would suspect, people are more conscious of privacy now than ever. Because not everyone wants to share everything to everyone else all the time.

In the end it all boils down to the fact that Facebook can earn a lot more money when the information is publicly available than when the information is sealed off. So please Facebook, be frank and don’t sell us the new privacy rules as beneficial to us users. The changes are a strategic move for you to grow your business. And there is nothing wrong with that… just please be transparent about it.

BTW: Zuckerberg is not the only one making remarks about user privacy. Several weeks ago I posted a link about Eric Schmidt – CEO of Google – and his thoughts about privacy. He has pretty similar ideas.