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Dissecting Zuckerberg’s Privacy Comments

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[ Social Media]

For many in the online space these days the words “Facebook privacy” would be called an oxymoron. Then of course there would be the usual calling others at Facebook morons and then it would get worse from there but I digress. Michael Arrington recently interviewed the poster child for the “Privacy? What privacy?” movement, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Mashable’s Pete Cashmore tells us:

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg claims that if Facebook was starting out now, sharing with everybody would be the starting point, rather than with a small group of friends. Is this more about reflecting social norms or changing them to help Facebook compete with Twitter?

The statement, made during a livestream of the Crunchies awards, hits on a hot button issue for Facebook: it recently notified users of privacy changes via a pop-up notification. While the message claimed that Facebook was displaying the message to give users more privacy controls, blindly clicking “next” was a way to make much of your data public. And in fact, some data like the Friends List has become more public without any settings changes by users.

I honestly don’t know where I stand on all of this. I think my only real concern is just how little attention most people pay to these major shifts in social norms especially when they are moved along at rocket speed by something as pervasive and powerful as Facebook. I know that even with the new “everyone needs to see everyone else’s stuff” privacy policy at Facebook, I can go in and lock down my public profile to whatever degree I want. How many of the 350 million supposed users of the service actually know that or even care? I don’t know. I suspect not as many as should.

An interesting article appeared in the Wall Street Journal today from Jaron Lanier, which is an excerpt from his new book. He is a pioneer in virtual reality technology and has some very real concerns about this new move to the “social collective” and I don’t disagree with him on much of it. Here’s a sample:

Here’s one problem with digital collectivism: We shouldn’t want the whole world to take on the quality of having been designed by a committee. When you have everyone collaborate on everything, you generate a dull, average outcome in all things. You don’t get innovation.

There’s a dominant dogma in the online culture of the moment that collectives make the best stuff, but it hasn’t proven to be true. The most sophisticated, influential and lucrative examples of computer code—like the page-rank algorithms in the top search engines or Adobe’s Flash— always turn out to be the results of proprietary development. Indeed, the adored iPhone came out of what many regard as the most closed, tyrannically managed software-development shop on Earth.

I realize that I am mixing and matching the personal web and the business of the web. They are, however, intricately intertwined especially as we move into the future. When the generation of “open information and free stuff etc, etc” are in the business world (and a lot are already) this new “social norm” that Zuckerberg talks about so casually could very well mean the end to true innovation unless signed off by the collective. As a result that means watered down ideas in most cases. As if it’s not bad enough, the US government is showing socialist tendencies. What if the business world became that way too? Geesh, time to buy some land, make my own clothes and grow my own food. We will all be brought to the middle and the world could be very average.

Of course these are just my own opinions on this but I am really no that interested in having to depend on everyone “signing off” on one my ideas before it can move forward. I am not thrilled about the idea of things like “search neutrality” that reared its ridiculous head in the recent weeks. I like privacy. I like some semblance of control. Maybe it is time to consider that plot of land and a tractor. That is of course, if it’s OK with everyone.

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Dissecting Zuckerberg’s Privacy Comments
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