Facebook’s Zuckerberg still doesn’t understand privacy, nor do users
May 24, 2010 by Beatweek
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that he understands the issue of privacy about as well as some of his site’s users when he backed down from his previously stubborn stance on the matter and agreed to allow Facebook users to turn off the company’s ability to spread their data around the internet like a gossip rag if those users don’t want it to happen. The good news is that Zuckerberg turns out to be less of an iconoclast than some had feared, and is willing to give in when his users demand it. The bad news is that he doesn’t seem to understand why his users have any fear about using his service in the first place – which puts him in good company with Facebook’s users, many of whom have concerns about privacy without having any idea what is they’re concerned about.
Even the kind of Facebook users who have no hesitation about giving their credit card to a waiter who can then disappear into the back room with it for ten minutes, still tend to fear everything about entering even the most basic of data into Facebook. Part of it no doubt that they’ve been told to fear it, but there’s also likely the lingering fact that most non-geek users never really trusted the internet to begin with. Much of that hesitation comes from the fear that their data will be made available to the world, when that “data” consists of little more than their name and favorite flavor of ice cream. Facebook has no user data when it comes to social security numbers, drivers licenses, credit card numbers, or any of the kind of data that can actually be used for crimes; anyone who’s worried about identity theft based on the handful of harmless data they’ve posted to Facebook is severely misguided in their fears.
And yet there’s Facebook itself, who once decided to strike a deal with vendors such that if you happened to, for instance, book a flight through Travelocity while logged into Facebook in the background, Facebook would announce to all your Facebook friends that you had just booked that flight. And while that may have been harmless in terms of results (except for perhaps ruining a few surprise homecomings), it doesn’t take any real explanation to understand why the move was a major privacy violation and just plain wrong. And yet Facebook didn’t understand that until users harshly explained it to them.
So here we have Facebook users who are paranoid because, well, it’s the internet by golly, and that’s reason enough to be scared without having any idea why you’re scared. And then we have Facebook itself, who continues to think that it can get away with literally anything and is shocked whenever users balk as its latest crazy idea. It’s not the best of combinations when the people in charge don’t seem to have any understanding of what morals are, and most of the users of the services don’t have any idea what it is they’re fighting for.