Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

"You Have Zero Privacy Anyway. Get Over It"–That Goes Double on Social Networks

flintstones

When Sun Microsystems (JAVA) Gadfly-in-Chief Scott McNealy made his infamous statement about online privacy in 1999, there was a horrified hubbub at the time that he had the audacity to say such a thing.

You know, that he actually uttered such a terrible thing as the truth.

What a shock then that everyone is now in yet another tizzy about Facebook changes to its Terms of Service, which pretty much state the obvious again by noting that Facebook archives info you posted, even if you quit the service.

As in, you probably can’t delete it.

No, you can’t–because you shared it, whether it be a photo, an email, a Wall post, whatever, already.

Because the fact of the matter is–since the moment the first caveman sent the first email to another Neanderthal–there has never been true online privacy for anyone who has chosen to participate in this highly interactive medium.

Here’s the key definition of interactive: “mutually or reciprocally active.”

That means once you send something to others, it is out there in cyberspace forever, never ever to return.

And that goes double on social-networking sites, where–let’s be honest–people egregiously overshare and then get all righteous when it is explained to them that sharing means, um, sharing.

As in: You cannot take it back, if you have shared with 476 of your closest “friends,” your bikini shots from Cabo.

Now, BoomTown has learned to live with some very unfortunate haircut choices preserved forever online and does not often agree with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (I and everyone else slapped him silly on the Beacon debacle until he gave in, for example).

But he is technically right on this, even if Facebook could have done a much better job communicating the changes it made to its ToS, especially since ToS controversies are the Bermuda Triangle of the online arena.

This lack of clarity has always a major Facebook weakness, but it was the same for AOL–now owned by Time Warner (TWX)–back in the day when it was raising privacy red flags all the time.

But that does not make Facebook wrong, as Zuckerberg finally said clearly in a post on Facebook:

People want full ownership and control of their information so they can turn off access to it at any time. At the same time, people also want to be able to bring the information others have shared with them—like email addresses, phone numbers, photos and so on—to other services and grant those services access to those people’s information. These two positions are at odds with each other. There is no system today that enables me to share my email address with you and then simultaneously lets me control who you share it with and also lets you control what services you share it with.”

Zuckerberg then notes that users are just going to have to trust services like Facebook with their data, which is up to the individual to decide before posting whatever online.

And, if regrets come later? Well, try this quote from the great playwright Arthur Miller: “Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.”


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald