Is privacy a dirty word?

Norcross May 19th, 2010General Ramblings

My wife likes to knit. And let's be honest, having this is pretty damn fashionable. Not to mention, it helps keeps me warm in a cold, cold world. So it’s been about two weeks since I ditched Facebook. And surprise, my life hasn’t gone into the gutter, people are still able to get a hold of me, and things are pretty much the same as they were, albeit with a bit less noise. Since that point, a few more things have come out to further muddle the issue of what (if any) privacy exists on Facebook. To quickly outline:


  • Their privacy policy is longer than the US Constitution.
  • To manage your privacy on Facebook, you will need to navigate through 50 settings with more than 170 options.
  • The NY Times had to do an infographic to explain the myriad of options (check it out here).
  • Mark Zuckerberg has basically been accused of everything from being an amoral sociopath to not giving a shit (not that he really should).

Every single shreader I've ever owned has jammed up within a few months, if not weeks. But I imagine that's par for the course. But this isn’t about all that. I’ve said my peace on the topic, and I deleted my profile. So it’s done. HOWEVER, I’ve had a few interesting discussions with folks online as information has come out. And that’s what has troubled me. Not what Facebook is doing, rather, what people’s reactions have been. More so, people’s response to my desire to have some privacy online. Or, more importantly, the desire to control what information is made public by any of the web services I use. Some of the comments I was given were:

  • No one cares what I am doing
  • If you want privacy, you must have something to hide
  • People will make judgments about me regardless of what info is available
  • If you don’t want it public, don’t put it online (no shit)
  • It’s a voluntary service (again, no shit)
  • Privacy is a myth

Think of it this way: your bank has a ‘social graph’ about you that makes the one Facebook has put together look like a bathroom wall scribbling. Think about all the places you use a debit card in a given day. Your bank has records of where you shop, what you eat, how much you drive, and when you do all these things. They have years worth of data, could pinpoint things such as when you begin dating, the birth of a child, or just about anything money related (which is, to say, just about everything you do). Now, imagine if they decided to write an API to allow companies to use this information to market products and services to you. Pretty creepy, eh? Well, don’t worry about it, because they won’t. In fact, they can’t. It’s illegal.

Now I’m not saying that banking is the same as using a social network online. They aren’t. But the fact remains that my desire to have some part of my life private is not anyone’s business but my own. And this coming from someone who is pretty open online. I tweet a lot, put photos up on Picasa and twitpic, maintain a blog, and even have my phone number on my portfolio site. So I’m clearly not ‘off the grid’. But there are a few things in my life that I don’t share. The reasons for which frankly aren’t any of your business.

One Response to “Is privacy a dirty word?”

  1. Liz

    Thanks for giving me more reasons to quit Facebook. Enlightening post.