Facebook Hubris: “Privacy is No Longer The Norm”

22 05 2010

Master of Disaster?

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and his company are no stranger to controversies, that’s not news per se. However, what is really disturbing is that his mantra stating that privacy somehow is no longer what it used to be is being repeated by others as if  it were orthodoxy. You don’t believe me?  Take for example this quote from Mashable’s Ben Parr on Al jazeera English show Inside Story:

“ One, part of the problem is that the world has just changed! and the world has changed to the point that anyone with a camera phone, which is almost everybody in the developed world at this point can just take a picture and post it online, can take a video and post it online.

And to expect that the thousands of social media websites can can be regulated and protected so that your pictures and identity don’t go online is just not realistic anymore.

So, we have to adapt to what the new situation is which is: your information, your picture and information will be posted. How do you handle your self in public setting, how do you handle yourself after the information has been posted online.

Parr goes on to answer his interviewer further clarifying his opinion:

Ketchup is a vegetable?

I would say that privacy has evolved and changed, it has become something that is.. I guess.. tougher to defend. I think that because of that , yes society does have to adapt around what technology has done. We cannot expect to have the same kind of privacy or the same way we protected privacy even five years ago.

In essence we are told to capitulate our right to privacy to social media websites just because they feel things ought to be so. Of course, the world has changed so did the technology, but that should not be taken to mean we, the consumers, should ply to the for-profit wishes of those so-called “new media gurus.”

Strangely enough, this line of reasoning is reminiscent of two guys whose names start with G for George and D for Dick. For the sake of this quick comparison George and Dick ( just like Mark and Ben) felt that existing norms had to be changed because they decided that the tasks they set out to accomplish required a radical change of the basic rules governing the fields because… it is a new world.

The events of the last decade proved that  just as the Geneva conventions and the laws of war could not be changed because we were faced by a new form of warfare, privacy has not changed one iota either.  What has changed is our willingness to sign off our right to privacy and trust others with it. Again, at the time that George and Dick made their case the establishment acquiesced and did not dare challenge them, remember how quickly the Patriot Act passed in congress?

Although I am no constitutional lawyer (Zuckerberg and Parr are not either), I say that the “default setting” in the US constitution is “PRIVATE” until otherwise proven. Maybe it is not an accident after all that Facebook’s privacy policy is longer than the US constitution?

Simply put, there is no reason to trust Facebook, Zuckerberg or Parr with deciding what privacy is. They are neither neutral or detached. Facebook is a for-profit enterprise worth hundreds if not billions of dollars whose best interests are not by default aligned with its users right to privacy. Furthermore, I think that the same way we have a tradition in this country, started by the founding fathers, to distrust our government, we can and should distrust Facebook or anyone else who wants to make a quick buck at the expense of our right to privacy.

At the end of the day, privacy is only one click away!

Ps. Someone please tell Zuckerberg and Parr that they are no James Maddison, not even close to a Ruth Bedar Ginsburg..

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