It’s not about the privacy

May 26, 2010

The privacy concerns of the netizens of the world is probably the defining groundswell of 2010. And the 2 big players – Facebook & the big G – keep stumbling from one PR blunder into the next.

As many commentators have said, the open nature of the Neb has landed society in completely new territory and we are still grappling conceptually with border demarcation issues. Personally however, I think a lot of the confusion could be cleared up by recognising that privacy is not the real issue we are dealing with.

Take Twitter. How come there’s no privacy outcry regarding our tweets? The answer is very simple: Transparency. From the getGo twitter was always about making everything public. Straightforward. No guessing what is going to be public and what isn’t. No doctorate required in everchanging privacy tweaks. No privacy policies that are longer than the US Constitution.

Every time Facebook or Google hit the news with their latest privacy gaffe – look closely at what the real issue is. Invariably it is about the way in which the privacy was breached.  The secrecy which is outed afterwards. The devious and calculating strategies to get users to depart (unknowingly) with their info. And despite the “oops” and “sorrys” and “we made a mistake” the Big 2 know exactly what they are doing. Ever connected your Facebook or Flickr accounts to your Google profile and then tried to disconnect them again?? Good luck! And is it by accident that in Gmail “turn off chat” and “turn off buzz” aren’t in user friendly buttons at the top of the page, but hidden in the small print in the footer of the page? You think Google hasn’t done testing to see where these links are least likely to be clicked?

User profile info is worth gold, and whilst we are in this new territory – this Wild West Wonderland – still figuring out who to appoint sheriff, the major players are in a huge landgrab. Because the Sheriff will come to town, and laws will be drawn up and enforced, but by then the gold will already be locked up safe and sound in the electronic vaults in Mountainview. And simple economics will ensure that once supply of personal info dries up, the value of the stuff in the vaults goes up.

And it is this – the Profit Motive, that is driving the dishonesty and coercion of the the Privacy Policies. Besides a disproportional vocal minority, how many people do you think would actually ditch Facebook entirely if Zuckenberg and co.  said openly – ALL your data will be public? OK, so that’s an extreme example, but even then maybe it would be worth losing 10 million users, and thereafter avoiding all future privacy blunders. Believe me Anonymity on the internet is not what its cracked up to be. Ask any SEO or internet marketer – we fight anonymity everyday.

No, at the end of the day, its not privacy that this is about. It is about good old fashioned ethics. Honesty. Transparecy. And declaring your intentions upfront.

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May 26, 2010 at 11:10 am

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