May 21, 2010

Facebook's vision: all or nothing

In an interview for David Kilpatrick's forthcoming book, The Facebook Effect, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg hints that the writing is on the wall for granular privacy controls:
“The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly ... Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

If I have one positive thing to say about people like Zuckerberg and Google CEO Eric Schmidt, it's that I commend their frankness.

In similar fashion last year, Schmidt warned Google users:
“If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.”

Contrary to what Zuckerberg and Schmidt appear to believe, the idea of separating certain private activities, interests, and social relationships from one's public persona is not a new vice enabled by the Internet. It's a long-observed social habit. Ethics guru Michael Zimmer nails it:
Individuals are constantly managing and restricting flows of information based on the context they are in, switching between identities and persona. I present myself differently when I’m lecturing in the classroom compared to when I’m have a beer with friends. I might present a slightly different identity when I’m at a church meeting compared to when I’m at a football game. This is how we navigate the multiple and increasingly complex spheres of our lives. It is not that you pretend to be someone that you are not; rather, you turn the volume up on some aspects of your identity, and tone down others, all based on the particular context you find yourself.

Zuckerberg may wish to challenge that paradigm. But whether or not this social behavior should be encouraged or discouraged merits a fair discussion, not an blanket accusation of duplicitous intent.

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Blogger M. Perkins said...

Google CEO has the right to know everything. Facebook founder wants to make husband, son, coworker, friend all the same thing. And the Twitter founder thinks Twitter will change the world.

May 22, 2010 at 1:05 PM 

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