Does the Social Web Mean the End of Privacy?

by Joanna Pineda Posted on January 13, 2010

Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg has gotten a lot of flack lately for his pronouncement (during an interview with TechCrunch) that privacy norms have evolved over the years and privacy is essentially dead.  I watched the interview myself and think the criticism is overdone.  I think that Zuckerberg has correctly described the times and his company is taking advantage of our voyeuristic culture.  Facebook did not create this culture.  I think it started with the first reality show on MTV back in 80s. We watched the teens living together and reveled in their pranks and arguments.

Does the social Web mean the end of privacy?  Are MySpace and Facebook to blame for all the personal revelations we spew out every day?  Or should we blame Google and Bing, which manage to index the Web and let anyone find out gobs and gobs of information about each of us?  When I Google my name (Joanna Pineda), I find lots of information that I WANT the search engines to find and index.  But I also find pages that have my address, my political contributions and address, yada, yada.  I’m not happy that Facebook changed its privacy settings and defaulted some of my information to be available to everyone, but I actually appreciate the more granular control that I now have over my posts, link and photos.

What do you think?  Is privacy dead?  How much do you reveal on social networks?  Are you doing anything to keep out of the search engines?

3 replies on “Does the Social Web Mean the End of Privacy?”

I’ve been struggling with this for a while – as a person who *wants* to be seen (my public face is my author persona), I like the exposure. I’m extremely comfortable with being a public persona–however, that public person is not all of me. There is information that I don’t share and prefer to keep private.

I think we need to figure out the difference between private vs. anonymous – the first (to me) involves what level of data an individual feels comfortable disclosing. The 2nd is whether or not you want to be identified at all (i.e., when you fill out forms to access information, etc.). I think the first is a right and the second isn’t helpful. Mostly because I do want targeted marketing on sites. I do want personalization…but that’s where I draw the line. I don’t want my social security number or private physical address available to all and sundry.

For now, my goal is to make sure that nothing I personally post, whether on my site, my blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc. is information I’d not want seen by the whole world. The conundrum lies in other sites perhaps disclosing that data.

Is there an answer? Not really. I figure this will be a continually evolving issue as more and more users become familiar with social networking.

I agree with you Maria, I struggle with this as well. As an individual, I am extremely private when it comes to my personal life. I don’t like the fact that when you Google my name things like the price I bought my house appear, etc. But when it comes to my professional life, articles that I have written that appear in search engine then I do not mind the exposure. It’s a somewhat idealistic way of marketing myself.

I think there is a fine line between what is public and what is private, but where it begins is changing with social media.

Social networks are opt in services. What’s more troubling in my opinion is all of the peripheral things that are migrating to easier on-line models; communication and finances are a couple of good examples here. Social networks are the face of the problem (no pun intended) but really I think it’s far more deeper.

Everyone knows that google can probably profile you even better than facebook could these days and let’s face it, they know every weird search term you’ve ever plugged in and keep it for several months now. Google was catching felons long before facebook was, in no small part due to the implied privacy that facebook really doesn’t give. Nobody would ask their friends on facebook for or about anything illicit, but most would search google for it.

Now I’m not trying to harp on google, but I think my overall point is that we are engaging in more and more activities these days that leave trails on other people’s databases. Social networks make obvious what some folks have been saying about the internet for years now – you have no privacy there.

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