My 1/17/10 Missoulian column
Even if you’re not too concerned with online privacy, you should at least be aware of the policies of the companies you use and how they handle your information, and be aware of some of their announcements made in the last few months.
Last December, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt (in response to a questions about trusting Google with the large amounts of private information the company has accumulated for Web searches) said, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” Google CEO Eric Schmidt Dismisses the Importance of Privacy | Electronic Frontier Foundation
Schmidt’s point is interesting, because in 2005, he blacklisted CNET reporters for a year after the tech news company published an article about Schmidt’s salary and political donations and more, all found through Google searches. Google blackballs reporters, CNET – Aug. 5, 2005
(Google has come under fire for their huge amounts of user information; last fall, I covered Google’s Dashboard, which allows users to see how much information Google holds and allows users to delete some – but not all – of that information. Google’s Dashboard gives users a bit more control and Navigating Google’s Dashboard.)
But one of the most interesting revelations concerning online companies’ privacy policies took place last week. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said, “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.” Zuckerberg: I know that people don’t want privacy | Technically Incorrect – CNET News.
He was explaining how Facebook changed the default setting for certain categories of information to public from private, and obscured details of the change at first, much to the dismay of privacy pundits.
Two years ago, Zuckerberg said that privacy controls were “the vector around which Facebook operates.” Some analysts think those initial privacy protections contributed to Facebook’s explosive growth, now more than 350 million users worldwide.
That leaves us with something of a chicken-or-egg question: Did the loosening of social norms of online privacy come first and companies then took advantage of it? Or: Did companies decided to make privacy more open and claim it’s a social norm?
Many of us use the services of Facebook and Google; what amount of privacy should we expect or demand? Will users quit using such services over privacy concerns?
Also see my 3/2010 Montana InBusinessMonthly article Check your Facebook Privacy Settings.
Next week: What information do companies gather?
This week in Mac Q & A: Moving an iTunes Library