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Erosion of privacy is a corporate strategy

CNET reports on Google's efforts to expose Google Reader user's shared items to Google Talk contacts.The article compares this to the Facebook Beacon project, which would have made purchases and other personal preferences available to people who are Facebook friends.

CNET reports on Google's efforts to expose Google Reader user's shared items to Google Talk contacts.

The article compares this to the Facebook Beacon project, which would have made purchases and other personal preferences available to people who are Facebook friends. That's not an exact analogy, since the Google systems bridged two different applications to expose personal data—it's actually worse. At least, on Facebook, it wasn't a matter of creating links between different application services, just an extension of what was shared with "friends."

For many years, since I started covering technology in the late 80s, companies have tried these experiments with "services" that diminish personal privacy. Cookies, referral spam programs, hosted home pages that include personal data in selecting ad placements without any permission from the user—all these and many more have slowly eroded what we think of as "privacy."

From the perspective of the long view, this is plainly a corporate strategy to diminish the expectation of privacy. It is wrong.

Let's make 2008 the year we all work together to establish a boundary that defines personal privacy as something we, individual users, have complete control over. Freedom begins with our decisions. Make sure the user agreements you click are compatible with your expectations of privacy. Don't sell out your personal information for empty promises. Hold vendors like Google and Facebook, among many others, to the promises they make that they will protect, not violate, your privacy.