Another mini Facebook Firestorm has come from old messages that suggest Mark Zuckerberg really doesn’t care much about protecting user privacy. For those of you who think there is much care about privacy in any online sector, I have some online oceanfront property for you in Arizona. Privacy is dead, but we CAN BRING TRANSPARENCY and we need that NOW!
Although online privacy has been an illusion for some time. I’m surprised how few people understand how their address, phone, emails, home values, and often even pictures of their children, friends, and associates are all online for much of the world to see.
Facebook has quite correctly come under more intense scrutiny for their almost reckless disregard of what users *would want if they knew what was going on*. This is the key to our ongoing quest for reasonable online ethics, and it’s a principle that is routinely and regularly violated by every major player in this space. Google, because they provide such brilliancy in free services, largely escapes the criticism they probably deserve – though it’s impossible to know how much they keep track of personal data – they simply won’t say, which of course is outrageous. Their justification for the secrecy is combating phishers, spammers and other undesirable online activity and I suspect also because the legal issues are very complex and the less we know the less likely we are to bring lawsuits.
The irony is that so many naive and foolish people are now clamoring for “online privacy! privacy!”. That possibility of online privacy – if it ever existed at all – is long gone. You can’t “erase your info” from the internet, and the bad, good, Government, and Google guys all have databases chock full of information about you, your children, your house, your comments, your searches online, and much more. This is NOT reversable.
HOWEVER there is something we can do and should be doing immediately, and that is creating a very simple law regarding the stewardship of YOUR INFORMATION. That law is my proposed
Internet Tranparency Act:
Individuals are entitled to view *all personal information* kept about them by any entity.
Their might be a handful of exceptions such as law enforcement, national security, etc.
The notion that commercial groups should be able to process MY INFORMATION without my consent or knowledge is, in Google’s increasingly hollow mantra “Evil”. But I don’t want to single out Google here because they are probably the best steward of all based on my limited knowledge of how they process data, which is mostly personalizing searches and matching that with advertising. At a deeper level Google reviews spammy activity by people around the world. I’d agree with them that they have the right and even obligation to crack down on bad players, but I’d disagree that they have such deep secrecy rights, especially when those secrets are used to commercialize the advertising and other aspects of the online experience.
The big problem is that people still don’t get this. If they understood the level of online profiling and surveillance they’d want more transparency. In fact they’d demand privacy as people are foolishly starting to do, but that’s not possible.