publicly available information – Stay N Alive

Is Google’s Position Towards Default Privacy a Good Thing?

I’ve been openly critical about Google’s lack of privacy in their launch of Buzz (and I argue other things as well), and its’ opt-in attitude towards opening up contacts and settings people previously thought were private.  That doesn’t change.  However, I’d like to spend some time here playing devil’s advocate and share how perhaps, Google starting with an open approach may be a good thing for Google in the long term.  Let me explain:

There’s no doubt that Google opening up all our data at the launch of Buzz is making people think more about Privacy.  I’ve had a post in the back of my head for quite awhile now that I was going to write on how I think Facebook could have made a mistake starting with a focus on privacy, as now people just assume that everything they put online is private, when in all actuality there is no way that will ever happen 100%.  Because of Facebook, people are getting more comfortable with posting their lives online, and while, even if Facebook remains a private environment for those people (in many cases it isn’t), they are now becoming more comfortable posting that information elsewhere, assuming it will remain private in those places as well.

I think Facebook could have done their users a disservice by giving them that comfort.  What if, instead of starting out private as Facebook did, they instead opened up everyone’s profile by default, and enabled them to choose what elements they want private after that?  Make people completely aware their information is 100% public, and then it is up to those people to decide what they share online, and what they would prefer stays private.  I think there would be a lot more education amongst users this way, and people would think twice before sharing things online.  Of course, Facebook wants people to share in easier ways and in a more comfortable environment to make sharing as easy as possible, so this isn’t going to happen, but it may have been even more in the right by defaulting to public on more things.  Ironically, these types of moves are what is getting Facebook a lot of flack as is, regardless of whether there are privacy controls in place that users can still turn on.

So perhaps Google is doing a good thing here.  Even the optimistic Louis Gray says we’re all wearing tin foil hats by criticizing their lack of privacy.  By starting public (while I still argue turning what was previously private into a completely open environment is completely wrong, and it seems they’re backtracking to try and fix this), Google is encouraging each and every one of its hundreds of millions of users to think twice before sharing anything online.  Google is taking a risk here by making people think twice, since it makes money off of the content you share.

I fully predict Google will be adding more and more privacy controls as they move forward.  I agree, maybe they launched too soon before having these privacy controls in place.  One thing they may have done right though is that they are making us think twice about sharing.  They’re making each of us think about what goes online, and what stays off, and how comfortable we are with what we want public.  I think that’s a good thing, and more companies should be defaulting public, rather than private, until the general internet audience gets used to this type of environment where we know everything we share could very well be made public for the whole world to see.

I encourage you to step back and think about this – I agree, privacy is a good thing, but could the default to public be even better?  Are users being educated with this move?  It’s an interesting move by Google – let’s just hope they can get more privacy controls in place for users to choose from as they do it.

Zuckerberg’s No Fool – He Only Shows What He Wants You to See

FacebookI’ve seen a few articles tonight gawking about all the information people are able to see on Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook’s profile due to the new Facebook Privacy settings being “more open”.  Of course, Facebook wants to be sure everyone knows what they’re getting into, and they’re also wanting to encourage each and every user to default to a more open status.  There’s one thing they’ve changed with this entire privacy settings upgrade however – users now have full control over every single thing they post to Facebook and who sees it.  Zuckerberg’s no fool – he’s only showing us what he wants us to see.  Let me elaborate.

Facebook’s strongest feature to date has always been its list feature – they had lists for almost a year before Twitter even started testing the idea.  One cool thing you can do with lists is take the groups of people you’ve organized and attach them to privacy settings.  Previously you could do this for photo albums, videos, and even some privacy settings on a global level.  If you’re a friend of mine on Facebook, the chances are you’re not seeing all the photos and videos I post – I know that’s a travesty, but it enables me to protect my close friends and family, while still friending anyone who wants to be my friend.  That’s pretty powerful!

What Facebook has been lacking however has been the ability to take these same privacy features accompanied by lists, and apply  them to your status updates.  The biggest thing Facebook launched with these Status updates has been the ability for you to now post a status update and only allow a specific list on Facebook to see that status update.  Let’s take one example – I’m a member of the Mormon church.  I have a lot of Facebook friends that are also LDS/Mormon.  I also have a lot of friends that would prefer not to be inundated with shares related to religion.  With this new update I can share things, just for my Mormon friends, and no one else will see them and my stream remains relevant to everyone else.  This is also a powerful marketing tool for that reason.  Now from one account, you can provide relevant data for each segment in your friends list.

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This is also why Zuckerberg has finally been able to open up his profile.  Sure, some photos people may question why a CEO of a profitable company of 350 million users would make public, but I am willing to bet he knows they’re there.  It would take him 5 seconds to make those private, even with the new settings.  The reason Zuckerberg has been able to open his profile is because he finally, without hesitation, can post anything he wants on Facebook, and only those he wants to see will be able to see the content he is sharing.  Zuckerberg is leaving his profile open because he feels safe finally.

You should too.

So if you haven’t yet, create some friend lists on Facebook.  Open up your profile a little on a default level.  Then start using those granular privacy settings on a per-post and per-upload basis so you can be sure your content is being sent to the most relevant audience possible, while still maintaining your full privacy.  This is all about giving you even more control, not taking it away.  This is all about user-controlled context.