A lot has been discussed about privacy or lack of. But what do you consider private data? Its a complex concept even before any other concerns are even lumped with it. Private information is treated as a distinct subset of personal information. This is the best way to discuss the issues clearly but there really is no defined subset of what is and what isn’t out of bounds.
- Is your name private? Age?
- Your physical address, phone number, cell phone?
- Is your email address or instant messenger usernames?
- Are your emails or voice messages inside your mailbox private? Your contact lists? Your pictures?
- What about your family names and relationship? Are family matters private?
- What about your discussions with your friends? Co-workers?
- Is the knowledge of your physical items within your house private? Your Wishlist?
- What about the software you use on your PC or CellPhone? Your Web History?
- Are your interests private? What you watch on TV? What you listen to? Activities?
- Is your financial data private? What you bought? Your stock portfolio?
- Your health information?
- What about your Computer’s Video Camera? Your Physical Location?
- Religious beliefs? Political Views?
- Your somewhat-naked body picture in an Airport Scanner?
- You get the Point…everyone has a different line in the sand.
Privacy is a very complex onion, many subjects and layers within those subjects. Privacy is a personal, subjective condition. One person cannot decide for another what his or her sense of privacy should be.
While privacy is important, people willingly (and should) share information about themselves to others. Lack of privacy allows people to interact with one another socially and in business BUT THIS DOES NOT MEAN that people should lose control over the information they want to keep private whether to themselves or to a small select group of people. Privacy is not binary but, due to lack of user knowledge or warning, Facebook almost turned it binary by default.
Generalizations about privacy are almost always wrong because each person views that Firewall barrier or set of barriers to be different. Privacy of information control have merits for safety, autonomy and peace of mind. But more importantly, it allows us to be us. You should have layers of privacy and be allowed to let your guard down for close friends and family. The world and companies do not need to know about everything you discuss with others online. And in today’s age, online is where people talk to friends. Every person in the world naturally guards their privacy by assessing whether and when to share information with others. These judgments are made in ways dictated by culture, upbringing, and experience.
When something such as the Facebook Platform suddenly changes the rules, all those past personal judgments where compromised with little warning. Privacy and security are different topics but when Facebook auto-opted-in these changes that reflect past conditions, they chose to break security rules that were defined between site and user. Facebook: When some of your first words in your Terms of Service page say “Your privacy is very important to us” and then you do a switch-a-roo that reflects past data, really how important is privacy and security to you?
A recent study found that people are becoming way more private than they were five years ago. Basically Facebook’s former niche was that is was a place to find and connect with your real-life friends. Facebook was a place to write or send something funny, perhaps NSFW or Mom. Facebook needed to grow and the way to do that was to transform their niche to something much wider, eliminating barriers of that former niche along the way.
So while Mark Zuckerberg is still “CEO….Bitch!“, the rest of us need to think a bit more about our public image and really think about how we use Facebook as it’s no longer a place to talk “just among friends”. Who’s to say that your “friend of a friend” settings may mean something different someday in Facebook, Open Social means “another app that has your friends with Facebook”. I’m cool with that but I no longer trust Facebook and will use it much more reserved than before. And the funny thing is, I never thought I was sharing anything too crazy and I’m not a very private person but I treated Facebook as a much more personal site, I loosened my guard a little more there. What I believe this all will mean is that average people (in general) will become even more selective with whom they friend within the Facebook-connected Universe and will perhaps join the next “private real-friend” niche site.