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Thursday, May 27

The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook

Hopefully most of you have seen this already. If not, this one's worth a click through. A nifty little javascript device that takes you through Facebook's ever dwindling privacy default settings. 

I bailed on the joint over a year ago. I left mostly because I just didn't have time to be there, and when I was, I should probably have been doing something else. So for me it was largely about self-control. But I also came of age along with the internet, back when we were obsessed about privacy and anonymity, government back encryption back doors, PGP, and even (gasp!) ettiquete! So privacy is important to me and by the time I left, I had been grown increasingly uncomfortable with the propensity for everyone to suddenly post their entire lives on line. It's not like telling somebody something and regretting it. It's like writing it in the sky, large and forever, no takebacks. With caching servers out there, you can't get it back or hit erase any more than you can recall that one email that you regretted as soon as you hit send. 

Even worse than the archiving—it's searchable. It's public. 

Others more eloquent than I have written on these ideas elsewhere, but I don't think that they can be restated enough. Hopefully eventually people will start taking this stuff seriously. The perception now seems to be that these are the fears of our parents. "Aw, Dad, you don't know what you're talking about." But I'm not that old, and these were concerns of the your 10-20 years ago when we stridently stood up for them against The Man in the form of the government. Now it seems The Man has returned in a much more benevolent sheep costume shaped like social networking sites. You know...friends! 

Make no mistake. The sites are not there for you any more than TV is there for the programming. Outside of PBS, programming is merely there to sell ads. Social networking sites pull you in to do the same thing. Your eyes are the product. If you think of it that way, I doubt that anybody would willingly turn over every detail of their life to the ad firm for Proctor and Gamble or ADM, but that's essentially what we've all done through these sites, because that's who they're selling our info to!

And please, I'm not saying that these sites have no utility or aren't fun and useful. It's just that TNSTAAFL, and it pays to know what we're trading in exchange, which is essentially every teensy detail of our lives.

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