Facebook and expectation of privacy

11 January 2010

Condemning someone or something on the strength of a single newspaper article is not a commendable thing to do, even if the journal enjoys a good reputation. However, I’m not surprised but still shocked that Mr Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is reported by the Guardian as saying that privacy is no longer a social norm. I find it quite astonishing, dangerous and lamentable.

As I have written before (see How much bigger can Facebook be?), I believe that Facebook’s most valuable assets are the information the users have provided and uploaded to the site. I expected Facebook would try to make money by selling or giving access to the personal data stored on its site to other companies.

It is true that most people have willingly, but sometimes not knowingly, gave personal information on Facebook. Many Facebook users did so, because they thought giving such information would help in connecting with other people and retaining friendships. They were happy to give personal information, because of the illusion of security and intimacy that the site offered. I doubt that they gave private and personal data with the intent that such would be freely available to all, including advertisers, in the spirit of total openness and sharing. Privacy still matters to many people.

I wouldn’t close my Facebook account (yet), since it does serve a few purposes, but I’m becoming increasingly wary of using or providing information to the site.