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A Contrarian Stance On Facebook and Privacy 160

Posted by Soulskill
from the baby-steps dept.
macslocum writes "Amid the uproar over Facebook's privacy maneuvers, Tim O'Reilly offers a contrarian view. He writes: 'The essence of my argument is that there's enormous advantage for users in giving up some privacy online and that we need to be exploring the boundary conditions — asking ourselves when is it good for users, and when is it bad, to reveal their personal information. I'd rather have entrepreneurs making high-profile mistakes about those boundaries, and then correcting them, than silently avoiding controversy while quietly taking advantage of public ignorance of the subject, or avoiding a potentially contentious area of innovation because they are afraid of backlash. It's easy to say that this should always be the user's choice, but entrepreneurs from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg are in the business of discovering things that users don't already know that they will want, and sometimes we only find the right balance by pushing too far, and then recovering.'" Facebook has confirmed it is working on more changes to its privacy policy in response to feedback from users.
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A Contrarian Stance On Facebook and Privacy

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  • In other words (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @09:21AM (#32304932) Homepage Journal

    In other words, the end users should be the guinea pigs in a social experiment? I don't think so...

    • Re:In other words (Score:5, Insightful)

      by XnR'rn (793753) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @09:25AM (#32304958) Homepage Journal

      In my experience end users always end up as guinea pigs in real world testing, one way or ther other...

      While it is bad, it is mostly inevitable.

      • by shentino (1139071)

        After Mark Zuckerberg's latest words on users being dumb fucks for trusting him, I've made my decision to steer clear forever from Facebook...and anything else he gets his grubby paws on.

        • by daveime (1253762)

          2003 called, they want their "latest words" back.

          • 2003 called, they want their "latest words" back.

            LoL! While humorous and accurate in the OP's choice of using "latest words" I somehow suspect (especially in the light of more confusing privacy controls, and sections where there is none) that Zuckerberg probably feels his statement is even more accurate and is enjoying exploiting such a situation for financial gain. Either that, or he has realized that his statement isn't as accurate as he thought in 2003, and thusly has made certain activities on Facebook public with no privacy option (other than includi

    • Re:In other words (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sakdoctor (1087155) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @09:53AM (#32305146) Homepage

      It's easy to say that this should always be the user's choice

      It should always be the user's choice.

      • That was easy...

      • by fishexe (168879)

        It's easy to say that this should always be the user's choice

        It should always be the user's choice.

        This shoud always be the user's choice.

      • by guruevi (827432)

        It IS the user's choice. The problem is that 95% of the users are too stupid to realize what they put online will be online forever.

        Recently (couple of months ago) one of my friends decided to change her name on MyFace and SpaceBook etc. and close down her pages. A recent search however still had it matched now as a 'typo correction': You searched for John Doe, no results - did you mean Fake Name and sure enough, not only could you find her pages but you could also see a preview of the pictures etc. that we

    • [X] I like my rights to control my own data, you insensitive clod!

      I'd rather have entrepreneurs making high-profile mistakes about those boundaries, and then correcting them, than silently avoiding controversy while quietly taking advantage of public ignorance of the subject

      Yep, that's one of the bullshit argument types - it's not a question of one extreme or the other. Hopefully, people are smart enough now to name it and shame it when someone tries this crap.

      It's about:

      1. using common sense (not too
      • by hedwards (940851)
        That's the thing, while I don't personally use Facebook, I'm puzzled as to what exactly justifies them putting these sorts of large changes in place without at least defaulting to private. A lot of the changes they've made wouldn't be a big deal if the default was to not share the information beyond what the previous policy had allowed. If people want to opt-in, that's their business, but opting other people in is just dickery.
        • by tomhudson (43916)

          It's because of the money. Always follow the money. If you can make it "opt-out" instead of "opt-in", most people will stay opted in. They either won't notice, or won't realize the implications. And facebook can then try to monetize the sale of this information to 3rd parties like Zango.

          It's the same with "negative billing" - those "unless you cancel, we're adding 'X' to your current plan and billing you $Y more per month".

          Good thing most cars (except Toyota) don't have a "While driving, by default we

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kaizokuace (1082079)
      Facebook's end users are advertisers. The people with accounts are the product.
  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @09:23AM (#32304950)

    It's easy to say that this should always be the user's choice, but entrepreneurs from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg are in the business of discovering things that users don't already know that they will want, and sometimes we only find the right balance by pushing too far, and then recovering.

    That's an OK philosophy for developing a product, but when it comes to personal data and privacy, once it's "out there on the internet" (either publicly or for sale by companies who sell to the internet), there's no getting the genie back in the bottle.

    There is no recovering when it comes to personal data on the internet.

    • by mickwd (196449) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @09:39AM (#32305056)

      That philosophy of his sounds exactly like bullying to me.

      "Sometimes we only find the right balance by taking what we can get, and then backing off when a victim fights back".

      Rapidly losing respect for this man. Shame - the books are (for the most part) great.

      • That philosophy of his sounds exactly like bullying to me.

        "Sometimes we only find the right balance by taking what we can get, and then backing off when a victim fights back".

        Rapidly losing respect for this man. Shame - the books are (for the most part) great.

        Some things may be good for society as a whole, yet very, very bad for certain members of that society. It's important to make that distinction, and I think he failed to do that. In an overall cultural context, yes, it's important to try new things and see if they work ... but we already know the damage that can be caused to individuals by loss of privacy. There's no goddamn experiment to required to figure out that people can be hurt when organizations who collect private information fail to protect it. Pe

        • And for all you "information wants to be free" idiots out there, realize that when confidential information is released, usually somebody gets hurt.

          And for all you "information wants to be confidential" idiots out there, realize that keeping information confidential usually has the goal of hurting somebody.

          It's not a black and white world. Don't make it into one.

      • >Rapidly losing respect for this man.

        Indeed. I just read an article on HuffPo about how Zuckerberg stole the code for Facebook in college and then went full-speed into media whoring himself and his company. Turns out stealing users privacy was their gameplan from the beginning. And then an industry insider like O'Reilly is going to say, "Give this guy a fair chance?"

        What?!

        I guess when you're the CEO of Bosch, Hitler seems like a guy you should stick up for.

    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      That's an OK philosophy for developing a product, but when it comes to personal data and privacy, once it's "out there on the internet" (either publicly or for sale by companies who sell to the internet), there's no getting the genie back in the bottle.

      The users ARE the product. They are selling us to other companies. Sites like Facebook are essentially pimping its users out to advertisers, companies, and marketers. When things like this are happening, the users have every right to control their information, to have a choice.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by plover (150551) *

      It's become the fashion to lump everything together, as if performances, images, tangible goods, rights, efforts, and ideas are all exactly the same kinds of assets and should be treated exactly the same by corporations, governments, and individuals. That's happened because business students are taught to convert everything to dollars, assign a value to risk, and then simply slide the numbers around on an Excel spreadsheet until the biggest one pops out at the bottom.

      The problem is that the dollar value th

      • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @09:58AM (#32305174)

        I agree except for one detail: just because the business nerds assign monetary values to everything, that does not mean the legal system has to. Throwing a few company directors in jail on criminal charges when their companies flagrantly infringe the privacy of others would probably be a better deterrent than some fine that is, again, just numbers on a spreadsheet that they pass to their legal and accounting people to deal with.

        • by plover (150551) *

          Sorry, but that won't work. As a typical amoral shareholder or mutual funds investor, I'm perfectly OK with the CEO going to jail as long as my dividend checks keep arriving in the mailbox. The market runs only on greed, not fear of incarceration of "other people".

          But imagine what would happen if Facebook was sued out of existence because of this change to their privacy policy. The next company to talk about loosening their privacy policy would see their share value dropping in half, as the wary investor

          • Shareholders in publicly traded companies are irrelevant, because they do not make the day-to-day operational decisions.

            Make it a personal liability issue for whichever executives do make those decisions, and you'll see results far faster than any measures based around fearing consequences on the stock market.

            • by plover (150551) *

              My point is that corporations will continue to assess personal privacy issues as low-dollar-risk line items, even if a few executives go to jail. There's personal incentive for one or two people, but not the corporation as a whole. "Let's continue to screw with people's privacy but let's set up a scapegoat to take the fall" then becomes the unwritten corporate strategy. A jailed CTO won't result in a multimillion dollar hit to the shareholders, as much as the CTO's ego wishes it to be true.

              But if analyst

      • by yuhong (1378501)
        Yea, that is fundamentally flawed and definitely not something I recommend. In fact, I have been think about a move away from shareholder value for a while now, and I posted comments about it and even rejected Slashdot submissions. My latest pending submissions is these ones: http://slashdot.org/submission/1243514/Why-Modern-Business-Is-Bad-for-Your-Mental-Health [slashdot.org] http://slashdot.org/submission/1242670/Why-We-Should-Stop-Teaching-Dodge-v-Ford [slashdot.org]
        • by plover (150551) *

          I wasn't even sliding into the realm of actual criminal corporate behavior. Just working within the existing system, every activity and idea is turned into dollars before being discussed. I don't know that you can change that at any meaningful level, as that is how success is measured in the financial world. Everything is dollars (well, until the saying becomes "everything is yuan", anyway.)

          I'm saying that our rights are undervalued in the current system, and the only way to change it is for us to assign

    • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @09:53AM (#32305150)

      I came here to make exactly that point. On-line privacy is Pandora's box: once opened, you can never put whatever was inside back again.

      There is merit in considering whether the status quo is really the way we want to continue. It is possible that our current views on privacy and sharing of personal data are unsustainable in the face of modern technology. It might be true that society needs to grow up and stop pretending everyone is perfect when they apply for a job, or that everyone accused of a crime probably did it just because of the accusation. Perhaps we do need to consider censorship and regulation of parts of the Internet, on a global scale, to protect minors from content they are not ready to experience yet.

      However, if you're going to experiment in these areas, the way to do it is slowly and progressively, on a relatively small scale, and with well-informed test subjects who have volunteered in the full knowledge of what they are doing. There are parallels here with, say, researching nuclear power, or experimental tests of novel medical techniques. You don't start by building a power station big enough to destroy half a country if it goes wrong, or injecting your entire population with that new vaccine on the first trial.

      Sites like Facebook, on the other hand, prey on the young and naive, and suck in as many people and as much data as they can, as fast as they can. But worse, as we have seen all too often recently, they are quite willing to make promises about privacy to those people one minute, and break them the next. There is no excuse for that sort of behaviour, and it's not some commendable way of "pushing boundaries", it's just abuse and should be penalised accordingly.

      One comment I saw recently summed it all up: these are difficult questions, and it is going to take at least a generation to resolve them... not least because one generation has now given up any chance of ever doing so.

      • by yuhong (1378501)

        It might be true that society needs to grow up and stop pretending everyone is perfect when they apply for a job

        Hey, I have been just beginning to try to push for that one, and I agree that if it was considered from the beginning, it would have been much better.

    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday May 22, 2010 @10:11AM (#32305230) Homepage Journal

      There is no recovering when it comes to personal data on the internet.

      Not for you, or for your neighbor who gets caught blowing the dog and ends up known far and wide as the dogsucker, but for the aggregate it's a perfectly valid concept. Right now we're finding out what is and is not acceptable in social networking. Frankly, since the bad guys can buy access to your information cheaply in most cases due to broad-based incompetence on the part of the gatekeepers, with "private" or even "classified" data being lost every day (at least on average) there's not as much to be lost as most people believe. The best response to this loss of privacy is to essentially eliminate it by not just giving trust to anyone who happens to know a lot about some person. Knowing my name, address, and SSN should not be enough to get credit in my name.

      • by fishexe (168879)

        ...with "private" or even "classified" data being lost every day (at least on average)...

        Man, with people dying every day there's not much point in trying to save lives, is there?

  • He uses the example of how we give up our location for turn by turn GPS directions. But the difference there is that we're sharing our location with the company giving us directions, not the company, it's partners, it's advertisers, the whole internet and the guy named Moe on the corner of a dark alley.

    And when we decide who we want to share data with, we dont want the company just deciding since it's Tuesday they can change their policy and go ahead and share^H^H^H sell our info anyways.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by belthize (990217)

      Further there's no need to share any information at all for GPS directions. We know where we are, what we're asking is where is the place we're going. Nobody else needs to know where we are. Any sharing of where you've been data is not necessary for the product to function.

      The point Tim seems to be missing is not 'can sharing info be good' it's: sharing my personal info should be solely at my discretion, not yours. If I miss out on some amazing feature that's a choice I made. If other more adventurou

      • I don't believe guys like Tim ARE missing these points! Why? Because that requires me to believe that what they post is their belief, their whole belief, and nothing but their belief!

        I don't believe that anymore!

        I believe they are posting *strategic* comments like a cosmic Go game. "Put a dot there to make a presence in That-Space of conception."

        Try spending a day surfing with the axiom that the authors of these blogs believe *none* of what they post, but do it for any of 10 rewards - traffic, controversy,

        • by belthize (990217)

          I suspect there's a great deal of truth to that. It doesn't ever require that much tin foil. They may not even be consciously aware they're doing it.

          Much like the professor whose students paid more attention the closer to the edge of the stage and further from the podium he got. By the end of the year he was channeling Leonardo DiCaprio leaning out over the edge professing away.

        • Good point. Problem is, I already know this, and pretty much everyone is doing it, so I end up reading practically nothing.

          I read 2 websites - Slashdot and Huffington Post. On most days, you can read them in 5 minutes each. But at least they are topical.

          Let's see what Slate posted on Friday:

          * Some guy in Virginia hates jews
          * A dumb faggot lost his job
          * A new tv show is about girls in high school
          * Our supreme court nominee is cool
          * The oil slick could get worse
          * Google is crazy awesome!! HOT GRITS.
          * Obam

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      And when we decide who we want to share data with, we dont want the company just deciding since it's Tuesday they can change their policy and go ahead and share^H^H^H sell our info anyways.

      Perhaps a simple rule could be that users/customers would have to agree explicitly with any changes that would violate previous policy a user said "yes" to. And make it a criminal offence (as in: go to jail) if you ignore that rule - especially for large numbers of users.

      For example, if a user previously agreed to a privacy policy that says "company will not share personal facts X/Y/Z with 3rd parties", then any policy change that would share personal facts X/Y/Z with 3rd parties (read: less restrictive

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bmo (77928)

      "He uses the example of how we give up our location for turn by turn GPS directions. " and neither does he.

      I don't think you know how GPS works.

      It does not work by sending data back to the satellites. All the software and data is stored within the device. It does not transmit anything. It is a RECEIVER of time signals from the GPS satellites.

      A GPS receiver, like TomTom or Garmin doesn't transmit. Ever.

      Therefore, the "gps turn-by turn" gives up your privacy is complete bullshit.

      --
      BMO

      • by HiThere (15173)

        That's a good argument that GPS doesn't need to transmit data. I'm not certain that it's a correct statement of the implementation. (If it were, why would the govt. require all cell phones to include a GPS?)

        • by bmo (77928)

          " I'm not certain that it's a correct statement of the implementation"

          GPS receivers are not transmitters. Phones are.

          The implementation is this:

          By law, cellphones require either triangulation via cell towers or gps. The expensive ones have GPS. Only the owner of the phone or the government (by subpoena, warrant, or E911 rescue) can pull GPS data from the phone. The former because it's a selling point. The latter, because of Emergency 911. If the fire department or police can't find you, they can't sav

          • Needlessly worry? Dude...1939 called. They want you to come back and shill for the Reich.

            >Your phone isn transmitting GPS coordinates to all and sundry all the time.

            Actually it is. You can either set it to broadcast to everyone, or you can set it to broadcast to E911. Either way, it IS broadcasting all the time. At least if you want to make calls.

            Can you imagine a scenario where E911 would help? Has it ever helped anyone? The very fact that you're calling 911 means you can tell them where you are.

    • by HiThere (15173)

      So far I've been able to avoid GPS. I understand that if I want a new cell phone this may be difficult, so I'm wondering how easy it is to find a pocket faraday cage large enough to hold a cell phone. It couldn't be grounded, but ...

  • by farrellj (563) * on Saturday May 22, 2010 @09:47AM (#32305110) Homepage Journal

    First of all, security is not a destination, it's a process. You can never reach a destination called "security". Privacy is the same type of thing. You can never achieve privacy, only increase it, or decrease it. It's always a multi-point balancing system where things like ease of access, functionality, and popularity, among others, are balanced in regards to how they increase or decrease privacy.

    Sure, I might be loosing a bit of privacy using Facebook, but really, none of the information that I post there is anything I would be afraid or ashamed of handing out flyers containing that same info on a street corner. If you are putting your phone number up on it, it is just like having a listed phone number in the phone book. Same goes for your address. Ever posted a resume to a job listing site? All of your employment history is there.

    This is not to say that Facebook is blameless, but like any public forum, treat the information you post there as if you were putting it up on a clear and open page on the internet that anyone can read or find in a simple Google search, and you will preserve an important amount of privacy.

    ttyl
              Farrell

    • I'm not foolish enough to post something that's actually embarrassing on Facebook - the Internet never forgets, etc. - but there's stuff on there that I'll happily share with friends but don't want the world to know, like my cell phone number. If you can't keep that category of information private from every Tom, Dick, and Harry, then what's the use of the site?

      Actually, I guess that is the whole point - I don't use the site at all anymore except as a self-updating Rolodex. And I treat it like I treat Go
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by webdog314 (960286)

      Your street corner analogy fails because I never expected that I was standing in the open. From the very beginning, Facebook promised it's members again and again that their personal information could and would be kept private. Then they basically went and shared it with anyone who was willing to pay them for it. To use a slightly modified version of your analogy, it's like having a private wedding reception at a nice hotel. You invite a few dozen of your closest friends, but then the hotel opens the doors

  • Tim O'Reilly is O'Reilly Press... which also has an enormous online presence. People comment based on their perspective. What would be the impact of better privacy to an online business like O'Reilly Press? Would it be better for Tim's business if there were less privacy?
    • by HiThere (15173)

      Well, one result is that I'm less likely to buy O'Reilly books. Another is that I'm less likely to buy ANYTHING from his web site...or even visit it to look-up information.

      I don't like to do business with people who don't respect my privacy. I'm grateful to him for being honest. I've only recently (the last year or so) started avoiding doing business with Amazon. Previously I'd considered them less dishonest than Barnes & Nobel. (Faint praise, but enough that I had been willing to do business with

  • by UpnAtom (551727) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @09:52AM (#32305134) Homepage

    So here it is:

    1. Users do not know the boundary conditions until someone's privacy has been abused - if they're paying attention and understand the issue.

    2. At that point in time, most users will have already shared too much - and once their privacy has been breached/sold, there's no undo button.

    3. Users have to spend time demanding their privacy rights which may or may not be given.

    4. We don't need to research where the boundary conditions are because once you know who's likely to access what information, it's not that complicated.

    The only question here is whether Facebook et al have a duty of care to their users. Morally they do, legally they generally don't and, financially, they're best of selling as much as they can get away with.

    Witness the clash, and hopefully the prelude to the exodus. If Google had their act together, they could clean up. Perhaps it's a good thing they don't.

    • by Al Dimond (792444)

      There are some companies that act as if they have this sort of duty. Really, I think we'll find that keeping users' interests in mind at least a little will help ensure long-term success; I don't think Facebook cares. It exists to make money as fast as possible. And that comes straight from the top. There are few tech entrepreneurs I respect less than Zuckerberg.

  • O'Reilly typo (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Antiocheian (859870)

    The essence of my argument is that there's enormous advantage for us, when users are giving up some privacy online

    There, fixed that for him

  • 'The essence of my argument is that there's enormous advantage for users in giving up some privacy online

    .

    That's fine but, don't force the loss of privacy who do not want to be subject to that loss of privacy.

    For example, I use a "frequent shopper" card at my supermarket. I give up some privacy in using it, but I still use it because I like the benefit of doing so.

    On Facebook, when I give up my privacy, I see little benefit, and a lot of downside.

    Facebook needs to allow its users to set the level

    • If facebook gave you a cut in the revenue, it might be worth something to give up privacy. But, it is solely beneficial to the corporation and its stakeholders.
  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Saturday May 22, 2010 @10:07AM (#32305218) Homepage
    Several years ago, someone posted an insight in a Slashdot comment (can't find it now) that ever since I have been expanding upon. That insight is that the 20th century is an anomaly. The 21st century is returning to 19th century tradition. One of the three particulars from that old Slashdot comment was that wearing time on your wrist was unique to the 20th century. In the 19th and 21st centuries, the time-telling piece is in a pocket.

    Similarly, anonymity was unique to the 20th century. In the 19th century, due to transportation constraints, everyone knew who you were and what you did. Welcome to Facebook and the 21st century.

    My expanded list is as follows (and apologies -- I don't recall which of mine are original, but I believe the original Slashdot comment listed only three examples):

    1. Telling time Described above
    2. Musician income. 19th century: Live performance. 20th century: Recordings. 21st century: Live performance due to the profit having been taken out of recordings, which in turn is due to near-zero cost to
    3. Political discussion. 19th century: Numerous overtly biased newspapers and town hall meetings. 20th century: Few television and newspaper conglomerates; newspapers supposedly "neutral point of view", a Progressive Era invention, but in actuality rarely criticize government or large corporations. 21st century: Numerous overtly biased blogs, which provide for both publication and discussion
    4. U.S. political parties 19th centuryFederalist/Whig/Republican vs. Democratic-Republican. I.e. Hamilton vs. Jefferson. I.e. centralized power vs. local power. 20th century Republican vs. Democrat. The Democratic Party got seduced by utopian Communism at the turn of the century and dominated the first half of the century. The Republicans in the second half of the century sold themselves as the anti-Communists and pretended to be for local power when in practice they were for centralized power. I.e. the choice at the ballot box was between fascism and communism. 21st century Ascendency of Ron Paul, Rand Paul, and other libertarians, due to the naked power grab by the Bush administration (and continuance by the Obama administration) and the power of the Internet mentioned above.
    5. European Political Alignment 19th century Empires 20th century: Separate countries 21st century EU
    6. Wires 19th century No need 20th century: Electrical, stereo, cable TV, and Internet wires everywhere 21st century: Everything is wireless now except for electricity, and even that is going wireless now through inductive surfaces for low-power DC
    7. Money 19th century Gold standard 20th century Paper money not backed by gold 21st century Due to collapsing dollar, we will be back on the gold standard whether in a planned or an unplanned manner
    8. Transportation and Land Use Patterns 19th century Walking, streetcar, and carriage. Buildings multi-level and close together to keep walking distances shorter. 20th century: Automobile. Buildings far apart to allow for parking lots and because the automobile supposedly provided for the best of the city and country in suburbanism, which instead ended up being the worst of both. 21st century Walking and streetcar are making a comeback, and "New Urbanism" projects that accommodate all forms of transportation without giving precedence to the automobile.
    9. Education Ownership 19th century Private schools and private tutors 20th century Public schools 21st century: A million children are now homeschooled, and the numbers are growing.
    10. Reading Pedagogy 19th century Phonics 20th century Whole word 21st century: Phonics
    11. Catholic Mass 19th century Traditional Latin 20th century Novus Ordo 21st century: Traditional Latin
    • The commend above is very interesting! Specifically on Education Ownership! Public education by and large in inferior and still caught in the 1950s modality. It is no real secret that it is moving toward homeschooling and even online schooling. I think much of this trend has been caused by the Bush Administration. Determining a school's funding based on standardized examination is terribly flawed methodology. There is a reason that standardized exams are falling out of favor and some ivy league school
    • by fishexe (168879)

      Several years ago, someone posted an insight in a Slashdot comment (can't find it now)...

      An insight?? Are you sure it was in a Slashdot comment?

    • Your efforts at giving current events a historical context is to be commended, but I'd offer the comment that most of the changes you describe do not have their roots in the 19th century (i.e., they're not unique to that era), and introducing a thesis with a discussion of the vagaries of mens fashion does little to advance your purpose.

      In all, I'm reminded of how political pundits today use the 1970s (or the 1980s) as baseline for their conclusions, with the more historically inclined among them citing occa

    • by farrellj (563) *

      Thank you for that interesting insight!

      Maybe the 20th Century is the "singularity" that so many are predicting!

      ttyl
                Farrell

  • Yes, but ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PineHall (206441) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @10:07AM (#32305220)
    The issue with their experimentation, is that they change the privacy settings of a person to be more open. Any changes should be an opt-in and not an after-the-fact opt-out. Finding those settings is to change them back is also difficult. It should be easy to set one's privacy settings and to know what is open and what is not. I am all for responsible experimentation that allows me to make informed choices about my privacy.
  • by AHuxley (892839) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @10:11AM (#32305234) Homepage Journal
    "giving up some privacy online and that we need to be exploring the boundary conditions"
    In the real web 2.0 world you face spooks, army intel, gov workers, politicians, state and federal informants and corporate types.
    What do they have in common in many parts of the world?
    Your online blog can make your life difficult, end in a shallow grave ect. after simple web 2.0 online comments.
    Much of the "web 2.0" is crawling with gov types trying to join different activist groups long term or make up their monthly arrest quotas.
    Entrepreneurs will always sell your data for profit, pride, faith, patriotism or access.
    So when US entrepreneurs make high-profile data handling mistakes it can have interesting flow on results.
  • by lucm (889690) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @10:13AM (#32305254)

    > there's enormous advantage for users in giving up some privacy online and that we need to be exploring the boundary conditions -- asking ourselves when is it good for users, and when is it bad, to reveal their personal information

    For some reason I suspect that this guy would not be so cool about "giving up some privacy" if the proposition came from the Department of Homeland Security.

    Seriously, it's a dangerous path and being edgy, 3.0 and Apple-ish does not make it right.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DaMattster (977781)
      "Those that would sacrifice liberty for security gain nothing the deserve neither" and we should be asking ourselves, "Why do companies think it is good for us to give up our privacy?" We should be thinking of ulterior motives.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @10:17AM (#32305286) Journal
    In politics, there is something referred to as the "Overton Window". Essentially, the range of policy positions that are considered "serious", "practical", "respectable", etc. This doesn't mean that everything in the window has a chance of being executed(the opposition party(s) for instance, are virtually always inside this window, and they often don't get what they want); but anything outside the window doesn't even need to be argued against. It can simply be dismissed as "extreme", "unrealistic", "out-of-touch", and so forth.

    However, groups outside of the window, while they cannot get what they want(under the political process, nothing stopping them from just shooting some people), do have the effect of gradually pushing the window in one direction or another. I'm not sure whether this happens because people use frequency of hearing an opinion as a heuristic for its popularity, or because having an extremist to point to allows former extremists to claim moderate credentials: "No, my plan to privatize virtually every state function I can is wholly reasonable. Look at those crazy libertarians... Now there is extreme." "No, I just support solid common sense and common decency to our fellow citizens, I'm not a wacko like those communists."

    In the case of "online privacy"(such as it is), Facebook's little two-steps-forward-one-step-back-I-apologize-to-anyone-who-was-offended game is playing out an essentially similar dynamic. Every time they do something extreme, the new "moderate" position they "retreat" to is just a little bit further in the direction they want. They aren't just feeling out public opinion, they are working to shape it.
  • I think everyone agrees that it is okay for some spaces to be public. No one moans about Twitter basically being a free for all. We, on the other hand, would be pissed if our personal instant messaging, e-mail, or private conversations were shoved out into the world. The issue with Facebook is that as it was originally presented, it was an in club for you and your friends. It was a way of posting to a limited circle of people that YOU chose. What has made the changes in Facebook so utterly distressing

  • by hitmark (640295)

    he is asking people to think? That will work.

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @10:41AM (#32305436) Homepage

    Let's go through this guy's arguments.

    • We give up our location in order to get turn by turn directions on our phone. If you get a standalone GPS for your car, you have a receive-only device that doesn't give up your location. So it's not essential that your phone "give up your location". That's a decision the phone vendor made, not something inherent in the technology. There's no fundamental reason that the "assisted GPS" system used in cell phones has to have location info available on the server side, either. There's enough CPU power in cell phones now to run the entire GPS algorithm locally.
    • We give up our payment history in return for discounts or reward points. This is getting completely out of hand. There's now a "rewards" program connected to medical insurance. [myregence.com] This area needs regulation. There's some sentiment in the airline industry for getting rid of "frequent flyer" programs, if only all the airlines do it at the same time.
    • We give up our images to security cameras equipped with increasingly sophisticated machine learning technology. No, we don't "give it up", it's taken from us. It's not a transaction, it's a mugging. If we want that to stop, one way is to hook up face recognition software to as many cameras as possible and track politicians, then put it on a site like "wheresmysenator.com". Or "copwatch.com". That will get some action.
    • Very well said. In fact, our privacy is taken from us in devious ways. It is taken and then explained to us as somehow beneficial to us. I never see how losing privacy is beneficial. Try explaining that one ...
    • Well, we do have a lot of lab rats in our society that simply make decisions without thinking about their consequences. I suppose if Americans thought about the consequences of these rewards programs and social networking, less would actually do it. Or maybe Americans are apathetic?
  • Facebook's privacy policy is at best a distraction, since it only says how other users can access your data, not Facebook itself. They still reserve the right to "bulk out" your profile by using it as the basis for web searches, and if they get this wrong there's no comeback or method where a user can even see their own profile. Someday soon, Facebook will be sold to someone else who is willing to use that data to maximise their profits, and no-one who has "agreed" to their terms will be able to do anythi
  • May Diaspora be successful! This social networking platform is the answer to Facebook's contentious privacy policy. I am going to vote with my wallet, not sit here and complain about that which I cannot really change.
  • You can not expect to take part in an online social networking site without ceding some bit of privacy. Otherwise, the "social networking" part of the deal is void (sociableness and privacy are antonyms, fwiw). Likewise, while the services may be provided to users free of monetary charges, there is a price to be paid, and that is privacy. Just because we don't have to break out our wallets to support these sites doesn't mean that someone doesn't have to. If Facebook can't make money off their users, they ca
  • "Do not post anything online you wouldn't want your mother, your boss, or your worst enemy to know."

  • I don't care if they monetize which obscure pop song I quote in my status or have a record of an occasional flame war with old friends who have emerged from the decades across some political divide. (I probably shouldn't have posted my SS # as a status however ...)
    What I find strange is the lack of certain kinds of innovation on the popular sites.

    For instance ... ahem ... does Slashdot redirect for webkit? Doesn't seem to from my phone. What's up with that (flame away with instructions as I haven't looked a

  • Facebook management has a long history of flouting User Privacy concerns and then want the firestorm gets' large, they back off.. the issue is the long history of repeatedly doing this.. clearly the only thing they have learned is that if they make a mistake they can apologize for it later...

    • by HiThere (15173)

      Which, of course, means that the word "mistake" should be changed. I just can't decide to what. It's clearly something that they did on purpose with malice aforethought, but it doesn't seem to qualify as assault, burglary, or any of the other terms that seem almost appropriate.

      • by hhawk (26580)

        the hyper polarized tabloid language. They are serial abusers of privacy... :(

        They need to be taken to court and get a consent degree or something that is binding, otherwise they will keep on repeating this process of doing stuff until their victims complain too loud, and then make a half hearted "pull back" enough to appease the average 'protester' but then a few months later try it again and again...

  • "....we need to be exploring the boundary conditions -- asking ourselves when is it good for users, and when is it bad, to reveal their personal information....."

    Wrong. Dead wrong. What we need to be exploring is how to make it easy for users to delete information about themselves they want to delete, and delete it permanently. And how to make it easy to keep private what they want kept private.

    What we think is good for users is neither here nor there.

  • Yes, brand-new issue [consumerist.com]

    Lets also just forget that the guy stole source code [wikipedia.org] on many occasions, and that the guy in general is just a prick.

    Yes, lets forget all these things, and pretend problems just started like, yesterday. We were all born yesterday anyway, right?

  • Dear Mr. O'Reilly,

    Having recently read your piece on exploring the boundary conditions of privacy, I have come to agree with your stance that it is better for internet services to push users to far and then recover, than to just say that matters of privacy should be the user's choice. But my thought is, why limit that to personal privacy? I have some other suggestions for irreversible actions that companies could experiment with without their users' consent or foreknowledge, in order to test them out an

  • Check out this overview [mattmckeon.com] how privacy eroded over the years through Facebook with a nice interactive diagram.

    I think we can think about a new word here ..

    deprivacy

  • If Apple owned Facebook and wanted to make it less private, instead of gradualling making the whole thing public, they would have just created a public page for each user and made it 1-click easy to share anything from your private page on it. Apple added 1-click publishing of photos to iPhoto a long time ago, they didn't just ship a new iPhoto version which put your whole photo library online.

    One of Facebook's de-privacy updates exposed Zuckerberg's photos to the Web, including one of him clearly high next

  • When you go on Facebook and publish something for world and dog to see, you haven't given up any privacy, you've merely decided that something is not to you private. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with that, nor is that Facebook's fault. It may not be the best idea, but it's not actually a loss of privacy, any more than opening your windows is.

    The issue with Facebook is actually that you don't have sufficient control over what information you share and with whom you share it. Some of that is the fact t

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