Privacy: How Much Does It Affect Your Choices?

The privacy debate comes up about as often as, well, about as often as Facebook changes its methods of sharing your data. This time around though Facebook’s changes have provoked questions in the mass media and of course when that happens, firestorms usually ensue. Google is taking some knocks for admitting that its Street View cars were actually grabbed bits of data from unsecured WiFi networks as they mapped the streets where we live.

Privacy thresholds are intriguing and very personal things. Some go to great lengths to protect their privacy, some live completely in public and of course there’s the vast middle where most don’t pay much attention one way or the other.

Before Facebook, before Google, before Amazon’s recommendation engine, before the Internet grabbed personal data and allowed companies to trade on that data, banks, grocery and other shopping chains did the same thing. That’s one of the ways marketing companies make their dough. The Internet promises those marketing companies more targeted approaches, or I should say personal approaches, with promises of advertising more targeted to you and your desires. But of course that means you have to give up that data for that to work. In my opinion, that idea is still in infancy as recommendations engines fail as much as they succeed.

But as is everything in life, trade offs are involved. The rub now, as it usually is, concerns who controls the key to a user’s data, the user, or the company that gathers it. The recent spats might tip that over into a big debate, or it might just wither away until the next event and get recycled again.

But in the meantime, what’s your thinking about privacy and how you view it. Below is a quick poll and we’d love to have your thoughts.

4 Comments

  1. GoodThings2Life

    05/17/2010 at 5:46 am

    My attitude is this… I want a clear and obvious choice over control of my information. Some things are very much public and anyone who sees me or knows me is gonna either find out from social networking or in person, so I don’t mind sharing… other things I want tighter controls on to share only with people I trust. Give me the controls and options I need to ensure that.

    For example, you see me in person or see my new Facebook profile pic and notice that I got a haircut… well duh, obviously that’s not a big secret. But I only want to give out my home address to people/friends that I genuinely trust, because I don’t want everyone friending me just because I’m good with computers and calling me up once they have my cell phone.

    As a result of this type of debate, I have to not only rethink what information I post but also whether or not to continue my use of Facebook. I remember back at college a few years ago that we (my computer science buddies) called our campus directory “Stalker.Net” and when Facebook came along we called it “Stalker.Net++”. Seems we were preemptively right.

    Reply

    • Strodtbeck

      05/17/2010 at 8:18 am

      Well put. I left Facebook because of the constant changes. The changes seemed geared toward making things harder to control instead of easier, and that’s the opposite directions I want.

      Reply

    • Frank

      05/17/2010 at 9:33 am

      well said, great post

      Reply

  2. Mike

    05/17/2010 at 6:49 pm

    The problem of facebook is the same as the old problem of a phone book.
    You gain utility (people you don’t know can contact you, and know something about you) but you give up some privacy (people you don’t know can contact you and know something about you).

    I don’t generally mind marketing information collected when it is generic. I don’t care so much if a company knows I am a male of a certain age range, etc…
    I am not so keen on somebody having a database for sale which lists the websites I visit and my recent purchases directly attached to my actual information.

    In a sense it is institutionalized stalking.
    But the mass nature of it, and limited intrusion into your life beyond trying to sell you something make it a bit different from actual stalking.
    Really we don’t have a cultural concept for it – because it is only recently that computers made the technology available for it to happen.

    Reply

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