Facebook, Google Arrogance Points to Sociocultural Ignorance
Anil Dash is to me is something of a Shakespeare of a blogger. He entertains, informs and inspires thought.
Plus he's been blogging since the '90s, which for this newfangled Internet age makes him timeless in that 16th century fashion. Okay, maybe not, but I dig his work.
But it's been awhile since I've read a post of his that begged me to comment and his piece today on Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a must read for anyone grappling with why Zuck and his team appear so cavalier and dismissive about peoples' privacy.
Facebook in the last three years put off many privacy advocates and some users by aggressively opening up connections between the social network's 500 million-plus users. Start with Beacon and go all the way to last month's Facebook Places move. Facebook is made up of "extremists about information sharing," Dash claims.
I'd assumed that a tossed salad of Zuckerberg's age, relative lack of professional experience and greed were to blame for the careless disregard for user privacy. Dash, quoted in this New Yorker article, pointed out other reasons today:
If you are twenty-six years old, you've been a golden child, you've been wealthy all your life, you've been privileged all your life, you've been successful your whole life, of course you don't think anybody would ever have anything to hide.
I haven't read the entire New Yorker article yet to see if there are other seams to mine for mental coal, but thanks to Dash I've come to see Zuckerberg in a new light.
I can't identify with any of the superlatives Dash enumerated. I grew up something of a middle-class schizophrenic, with a mother who is a nurse-turned therapist and a father who worked a blue-collar job.
Accordingly, it never occurred to me that Zuck and Co. would be blind to the notion that there would be people who feel as though they had something to hide from embarrassment or shame.
I'm looking at you health data, criminal records, and past employment some with higher moral ground might deem distasteful.
In short, I was blind to their collective blindness. I never attributed the mental level set to Zuck's silverspooned upbringing.
It's quite a socio-cultural dilemma isn't it? Privileged kid builds something with major consequences but quite possibly unintentionally overlooks the possibility that harm may be done by people who have things to hide.
We've seen this movie before. Privileged people have always used their smarts, social standing and power to beat down the poor. That metaphor implies excessive political economic denigration of peoples'
Facebook is instead is harvesting data and treating it as currency, or the price users' pay to use their "free" service.
Thus, Zuckerberg's casual attitude toward user privacy is borne of ignorance, which is certainly preferable to the idea of an evil CEO trying to, say, lure children with free ice cream while siphoning their personal data.
Wait, wrong company. That's Google.
We're seeing this similar pattern with Google aren't we? Google CEO Eric Schmidt, when questioned about Google's data collection practices, famously noted:
If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.
That comment, which positively rings with arrogance on the palette (try it at home), among other things, fueled Mike Elgan's rant on Google's arrogance.
No wonder Google and Facebook are trying to kill each other; they are of the same ideology. At the top they are driven by leaders obsessed with collecting data at all costs.
They have flourished in making our personal data the centerpiece of their businesses and then capitalizing on it again and again under the banner of innovation.
Good thing I'm not privacy obsessed or I, as a middle-class citizen, might be angry or upset.
As it is, it's fascinating to watch Dash and other media hounds paint Facebook and Google as companies whose decisions in the name of innovation not only impact our civil liberties in such profound ways, but do so without intending to cause harm.
Imagine if these companies tried to be evil.