What Is True/Slant?
275+ knowledgeable contributors.
Reporting and insight on news of the moment.
Follow them and join the news conversation.

Dec. 11 2009 - 9:25 pm | 97 views | 1 recommendation | 2 comments

If Facebook Users Really Valued Privacy, They Shouldn’t Have Joined In The First Place

This picture provided by The Crunchies and web...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

It’s time for Facebookers to face facts: if they really valued “privacy,” they should never have joined a website designed for divulging personal information to begin with. However, judging by the reaction across the Internet – including here at True/Slant – to the social networking site’s recent shift in privacy settings, you would think that it had been revealed that the CIA has implanted listening devices in every home in America.

Perhaps I’m not the right person to hold forth on matters Facebook; I’m not even a member. I find the daily activities of most of my acquaintances to be absolutely stultifying. And that’s to hear about them in person; why I would want my personal computer bombarded with such inanity is beyond me. Like the wonderful Matt Labash, then, I find Facebook to be simply a collection of billions of megabytes of boredom.

But there are deeper reasons to be wary of Facebook, and they cut to the heart of the current uproar over privacy settings. Since its inception, the whole purpose of Facebook (and any social networking site), has been to blur the traditional distinction between the private and public self – to tear down those boundaries. Photographs, dinner plans, even ostensibly private conversations; all of these are posted publicly on the site. This has formed a sort of virtual Panopticon, where, if I’m a user, I can see everything everyone I know is doing, and everyone I know can see everything I’m doing. This has never been compatible with any sense of “privacy,” at least as I can understand the term. Hence, the current uproar is incoherent.

More troubling is the issue of corporate ownership. As Justin Kistner has observed, we’ve known for quite some time that Facebook intends to turn a profit on its users’ private data. In so doing, the site will essentially reduce individuals to little more than a set of consumer characteristics. Facebook is not about promoting organic individualism; it’s about finding character “types” – the better to target ads at. One of the most baffling things I’ve witnessed over the past few years has been to see most of the people I know voluntarily – nay, enthusiastically – divulge all manner of their personal information to a private corporation. Big Brother couldn’t have dreamed of such complacency.

The current “privacy settings” uproar seems more than a little misplaced. Of course, I’m certain that scores of steamed Facebook-using “privacy activists” are currently writing furious posts about how very mad they are about the change in privacy settings.

How much do you want to bet that they’re writing those posts on Facebook?


2 Total Comments
Post your comment »
  1. collapse expand

    They shouldn’t use free email services, either. Or own a cell phone. Or use credit cards. The list goes on. But we could use a crystal clear definition of a “reasonable expectation of privacy”, because the public has a different understanding of what their rights to privacy are- or lack thereof- and are being badly exploited as a result.
    It’s disingenuous to assert that 350 million facebook users understand privacy better than the guy who started the site in the first place.

Log in for notification options
Comments RSS

Post Your Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment

Log in with your True/Slant account.

Previously logged in with Facebook?

Create an account to join True/Slant now.

Facebook users:
Create T/S account with Facebook

My T/S Activity Feed


    About Me

    I'm a writer based in Portland, Oregon. My work has appeared in the Weekly Standard, the American Spectator, the New York Press, The Big Money, sp!Ked online, the Epoch Times, the Daily NK, and others. From 2005 to 2007, I wrote a column on culture and politics for the (alas, now defunct) Seattle-based Internationalist Magazine. In so doing, I filed dispatches from Berlin, Seoul, Paris, New York, and, yes, Reno - among other places. In 2009, I reported on business from Shanghai. I attended Reed College, in Portland, Oregon.

    See my profile »
    Followers: 44
    Contributor Since: November 2009
    Location:Portland, Oregon