Supernova: Can Social Media be the "savior" of privacy?

Supernova: Can Social Media be the "savior" of privacy?

Summary: A conversation about privacy and the social Web hints that the rise of social networking might be a "savior" of privacy.

TOPICS: Privacy, Security

There have been plenty of debates over the rise of social networking sites and the impact they have on privacy. In most cases, privacy advocates are quick to warn users of these sites that information posted on the Internet is forever out there, potentially available to anyone with Web connection.

In a session called Privacy and the Social Web at the Supernova conference in San Francisco, it was surprising to hear Jim Dempsey, vice president of public policy for the Center for Democracy and Technology, suggest that the "social networking phenomenon could be the savior of privacy."

As crazy as it sounds, Dempsey tapped into a thought that popped into my head yesterday when I logged on to Facebook and spotted a big headline about a blog post from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It was in my face. I couldn't help but see it. Sure, it was disruptive to my Facebook experience but the company wanted to make sure that its users saw it. Why? Because it pertained to their privacy settings.

Back to Dempsey's point, the realization that we are putting granular information about ourselves on the Web has become a center-stage topic. And that sort of awareness is incredibly valuable.

Because it's a young company, Facebook is building from the ground up and learning as it goes. Clearly, Facebook has made some blunders in the past - notably the launch of Beacon and the impromptu changes to its terms and services - that prompted backlash from its user base. But Facebook has also learned from those experiences - and it seems that others have learned from them, as well.

Anne Toth, who heads privacy efforts at Yahoo, highlighted the shift toward a more social experience on its properties and detailed some of the challenges that come with being an established site with an established user base that's suddenly introducing new ways of doing thing.

To a certain extent, Yahoo has watched Facebook slip, fall and pick themselves up after their blunders, she said. Yesterday's alert of privacy changes was disruptive - but that's OK. Facebook knew better than to just make changes without alerting its users. Yahoo understands the significance of that, as well.

Privacy and the Internet will continue to be a hot topic of debate. Policies dealing with social media and privacy - whether at the corporate level or government level - cannot be an end-all solution. Keeping people engaged in the privacy discussion is one way to keep them from becoming complacent and comfortable with what they're putting out there.

Keeping that discussion alive is a good thing.

Also see: Denise Howell: Muddling through privacy and the social web

Topics: Privacy, Security

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  • Social Networking=Privacy Disaster

    A fool puts their life history on a
    public domain that does NOT belong to
    them after it is posted.

    Privacy Stop using social networking

    It can and will be used against you.
  • Breaking it down....

    Many online services are not making much money or are losing money. Online ad revenue has dropped, from what I have read, and we've learned that in our emerging culture is that people aren't often willing to pay for content.

    So, if Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. are for-profit companies, and if their ad revenues continue to drop, AND people aren't willing to pay for content, they only thing that they have left to capitalize on is the information they have stored. Specifically on their users.

    Before anyone shouts that they 'can't' do that, what legal restrictions do those companies have on selling that information? There might be policies, but do those policies offer legal rights to end users? And if so, what rights? Considering that no one pays for those services, there is no financial loss if twitter / facebook / etc. sell the information (people can't ask for their money back...).

    And, if a company is publically traded, they have legal responsibilities to ensure a profit for their shareholders.

    Or, is there some other way for those companies to make money, if not ad revenue and subscription services?
    • Exactly.

      And this is already happening.
  • aa reasonable subscription just might

    be acceptable. None of this ten or fifteen dollars a month ripoff. If users were charged fifty cents a month, many would feel it is a reasonable price to stay in touch with far flung friends.
    Facebook has 350 million users at the moment. Assuming the deceased pages are maintained gratis and after the inactive accounts have been identified there could be as many as two hundred million paying subscribers. That amounts to one hundred million dollars per month. That should go a long way to replace flagging ad revenue and still not gouge users. An additional benefit of this is that it would free up space from those "users", like me, who have a page that they do not remember when or why they took it out and have done nothing with it since. Since I didn't remember having a Facebook page, I immediately trashed any emails with friend requests or anything else from Facebook.
  • good idea about facebook

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