Privacy In The World Of Social Networks
I guess that you couldn’t miss the recent story about Facebook’s new update. One that connects your data posted on their social network with the other sites all over the web. One that caused automatic change of privacy settings for all members. If you had any doubts, that wasn’t a bug in the system, that was a deliberate action that opened the private data of 350 millions of people to the rest of the Internet, search engines, archives and data sniffers included.
So what? – one might ask. Well, call me old fashioned but I do care that my private things stay private, and that it is me who determines what is private for me. That is the exact opposite of Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt’s thinking that
if you have something you don’t want anyone to know maybe you should not do it in the first place.
What an interesting way to think.
Imagine somebody putting a bug into your phone and transmitting your conversations via local radio station, saying that if you have something private to talk you should not use the phone. Crazy, right? And illegal, too. It would be matter of days before the radio station would be closed and some people face serious criminal charges.
But phone is not the same as Facebook or any other social network, somebody might say. True, phone is more like e-mail or private messages on a social network. Guess what, those are intercepted and even censored on Facebook as well. Apparently, Facebook will block your private message if it contains something like a link to The Pirate Bay and give you an explanation that some Facebook users find your message abusive. It will not tell who are those users, how they can reach your private message and why should they care about the content of your private conversation which they are not a part of, though.
Imagine that in the middle of a phone conversation censoring beep sound cover your words because something or somebody calculated that you shouldn’t be talking whatever you do talk at the moment. Or the line simply hangs with operator’s prerecorded voice telling you that “some of the content of your conversation is reported as abusive by other telephone users”. Not by your friend that you are talking to, but some other, unknown people you have never met and that, by any means, have no right to eavesdrop your phone line.
But this is going much further than illegal censorship.
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg was glad to inform us that the world is changing, and that we don’t think of our privacy as we did years ago:
Doing a privacy change for 350 millions of users, it’s not a thing that lot of companies would do, but we viewed that as a really important thing, to always keep beginner’s mind, to think what we would do if we were starting the site now. And we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just run for it.
Don’t you just love when somebody decides what we’ll all think and simply do something for you without asking how do you feel about it?
Telephone line is considered more private than a social network, so let’s imagine a really public place. Let’s see what happens if you bring a friend to a cafe to have a chat. While people at the nearby tables can hear what you’re talking eavesdropping is considered rude but it’s not illegal. Depending on the situation it might be even a part of cafe networking.
You are aware of that and you don’t really mind if somebody is eavesdroping while you’re talking about the last night’s party. But then comes the more racy part of the story, the one where you leave the party with that handsome person and all that followed. That part is for your friend’s ears only. So you get closer and lower your voice to keep the juicy details out of the range of the nearby tables. But no! There is a microphone on every table, picking your story’s best part. And, like that is not too much already, the conversation is made public for the rest of the cafe and connected to information about what drinks you’ve ordered and a candid photo from the bathroom.
And if you say something about it, cafe manager will tell you that the times have changed, that he has decided what are the new social norms and that you see privacy of your conversations, drinks and bathroom activities differently now. Of course you do. In the next step the content of your pockets will be searched and made public as well as your underwear. Dammit, why would you get that Victoria Secret if you don’t want the whole world to see it?