B.L. Ochman writes here about Facebook’s privacy issues, arguing that actually, the fault lies with all of us for consistently oversharing on the internet, rather than with Facebook. While admitting that Facebook has made a PR mess of the way it has introduced and communicated some of its changes, the article says, in part:
“People have made a lot of terrible decisions about what they put online for as long as the internet has existed. It’s about time everyone realized that you shouldn’t put anything online that you wouldn’t want an employer, the government or your mother to see. Facebook never made those decisions for anyone! “
Well, as far as it goes, that’s true – but it paints a picture which is partial in two crucial aspects; those of purpose and informed consent.
“Social networking” sites (and I have ranted often enough about why I object to that phrase) create a false reality which users are only too happy to collude in: the illusion that when you go online, just you and your buddies are interacting. In fact, of course, not only are you not alone, there is a third party in the room whose commercial interests lie explicitly in re-selling the byproduct of your social interactions.
Awareness of that fact is growing, thanks in part to the current publicity Facebook’s privacy-eroding policies are generating, but not, it must be said, through any informative disclosure by Facebook, to users, about their role in its business model.
Ochman makes the case that we have all been making poor privacy/disclosure decisions for years. Well, if that’s so evident, it should be correspondingly obvious how to design systems to help users make better privacy decisions. One cannot credibly argue that Facebook is an example of that.
[Thanks to @N_Hickman for pointing me to the B.L. Ochman article]