You Can’t Reclaim Privacy


Status updates from Brandeis would have been unlikely.

“Privacy is the right to be alone–the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by civilized man.”

- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis

Brandeis, who died in 1941, would likely be aghast at the concept of Facebook.

The idea that people would willingly share so much of their private lives with friends and family wouldn’t shock him as much as Facebook’s rather cavalier decision to suddenly make all of those private conversations (if sharing with hundreds of people can really be called private) public.  At the flick of a switch, Facebook basically shined a bright light on all of us.

This is, of course, an enormous boon for marketers, communicators and advertisers.  That’s the point.  But the decision to set nearly all of the default settings on Facebook to public rather than private isn’t so good for the average user.

Maybe Bill didn’t want to share his reading list of socialist books with his free market father.

Maybe Susan didn’t want to share those bikini vacation photos with the guys at work.

Maybe Keith didn’t want his Catholic parents learning that he’s an atheist.

Or maybe most people just want the right to be left alone and to make their own decisions about who to share personal information with…

As Ryan Singel said in Wired: “Facebook has gone rogue, drunk on founder Mark Zuckerberg’s dreams of world domination.”

While I admire the efforts of ReclaimPrivacy.org – the outfit that’s helping Facebook users tighten their privacy restrictions – the fact is that you really can’t get privacy back.  Once it has been violated.  It’s gone.

So while you can use ReclaimPrivacy to restrict access to your account – in the future - Facebook has already shared your information with its partners, developers and the world.

You can’t get that back.

As Dan Kennedy, media analyst, wrote in his recent Guardian column: “the phrase `online privacy’ is and always has been an oxymoron.”

That’s a great place to start.  Remember this.  If you posted it on Facebook – even before its latest privacy fiasco – it was no longer private anyway.

Words to live by.

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2 Responses to “You Can’t Reclaim Privacy”

  1. Great post, George. I try to explain to people what it means that more of their info is public than they might think. They don’t seem to get it. Your examples above are great. I actually (no joke) Facebooked this post.

    On a related note, if you haven’t seen it yet, look at http://www.kurrently.com. It searches twitter updates AND public Facebook updates. More realtime searching, at your fingertips.

  2. Hey Alan:
    Thanks on the Facebooking… I think…

    I’ve just been playing with Kurrently. Interesting idea!

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