The Inquirer-Home

Privacy is your problem

Column Not your social networking provider's
Fri Mar 23 2012, 14:57

WHEN I MOVED INTO MY FLAT, five years ago, it had curtains in the sitting room.

davenealThis meant that I was shielded from the prying eyes of my neighbours and they were protected from my indignity.

This curtained existence lasted for about six months until one fateful afternoon when during some shenanigans my dog pulled them down along with the the rail that supported them.

I'm a busy man with a lot on my mind, and I don't spend much time thinking about my curtains. As a result, they stayed down until my girlfriend moved in. Or, to be more precise, almost a year after she moved in.

Then, you see, after some reminding, I realised that unless I fixed the issue I would be exposed forever more. The same reasoning was behind my decision to close down my Facebook account, something that I did about two years ago.

I'm glad I took that decision back then - not the curtains, the benefits of curtains are obvious. No, closing down Facebook. I simply do not have the time to manage something that is supposed to be fun and easy.

Managing a Facebook account is something of a full-time job. The company has a history of changing its privacy policies and launching applications that enroll you in some marketing and sharing exercise without your permission. This means that you must hover over your Facebook privacy settings like a hen worrying about its eggs.

It doesn't stop. This month Facebook gave its users, almost a billion of them, around a week to digest proposed changes that include among other things the renaming of the Privacy Policy to the Data Use Policy.

People of course are up in arms about this, and it appears that the entire nation of Germany is revolting against it. "We don't agree to the changes" is the cry as they protest in opposition.

Well, it's good to complain, no doubt, but you also have to remember that you do not need to be on Facebook, and if you really must you don't have to share a whole lot with it.

Facebook is not a village hall where people can meet and say hello and swap photos with each other over scones. It is a business that makes money by knowing what people do and want. It wants you to be a member and it wants you to share.

You give it that, and only when it asks for more do you complain. What's the matter? You like keeping snakes but don't like the way they slither? Get rid of the snake would be my advice.

Facebook is not alone. Twitter, which competes with Facebook in the user number stakes, is quite open about the fact that marketers can search its users' communications. And Google, as it has proved in the last month, is more than happy to stand by its own privacy policy tweaks, despite how much opposition it gets.

People are losing this war, because they keep capitulating to the enemy. Something has to change. And no, I don't think that changes will come in any firms' privacy policies or settings.

Rather it will happen in the minds of users, and in the decisions that they make when it comes to sharing.

Until users' rights are as well protected as the marketers that these web sites apparently serve, when it comes to sharing I say 'less is more'. µ


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