While setting my mother (gah) up on Facebook the other night over the phone at her request, I started thinking hard about privacy settings and a response to Mark Zuckerberg’s comments last week that privacy doesn’t matter.
First, the increased complexity of site design is really something that’s getting out of hand. People figure it out, but it seems by catering to those of us who use these tools regularly, it leaves late adopters out in the cold — confused and frustrated to the point of giving up. What’s worse, is the trickery involved in these measures. No less than a year ago, Facebook privacy settings were relatively straightforward and made it easier to control who saw what and how. Now? The duplicity of attempting to trick new users into believing their information is “safe” when in reality, the defaults offer no such assurances seems wrong. It’s fine for people who have someone to help them through the process, but what about people who don’t have that? Does is suffice to say, “maybe you just shouldn’t participate in the conversation?”
On the idea of privacy, it’s simple. Not only has privacy become more important as people interact in a digital space, but so has the ability to communicate on your own terms. Meaning, it’s easier now than ever for people to make judgments about people based on an incomplete picture derived from online presence. Some folks counter this by being completely transparent and others maintain selectivity all the same. It depends on a lot of factors such as the work you do, who you interact with and your other reasons for this.
I feel like we’re revisiting this subject a lot, but it’s an important one. If the folks at the helm of web companies don’t take privacy seriously, it’s a sad song for the future of these services. Users will remain complicit by participating and handing over their personal information, believing it to be safe until something happens. Then, the companies will be forced to scramble and implement makeshift measures to assuage the concerns of a leery public.