Your idea of privacy is dead

I hear a lot about privacy these days.  More often than not, it’s about Facebook or Google and their disregard of privacy.  I think part of the problem is that privacy means different things to different people.

I know for a fact that how I view privacy online is different than other people.  I accept that the internet is changing rapidly and the idea of privacy that existed are long gone.  Online handles are a thing of the past (though there are still exceptions, hi Reddit).

I hear things like…

Ditch Google and use DuckDuckGo because they don’t track users.  Don’t use gmail because they read your email.  Ditch Facebook because Zuckerberg said privacy is dead.

In fact, the most recent knock against them is that Facebook Home can take over your phone and offers all kinds of potential privacy violations.  Reading that story led me to write this blog post.

Let’s face facts here.  The modern web and your personal data are intertwined.  There is no going back.

When Google announced their unified privacy, it was actually a great leap forward.  Those people who complained four years ago that Google was reading their email love Google Now.

Gmail will see that you booked plane tickets or had a packaged shipped and will personalize your Google Now experience.  This was not possible five years ago.  Google Glass was not even possible a year ago.

Will these companies use this data to show advertisements and make money?  Yes, of course.  As it turns out, they are companies that need to make a profit.

A privacy breach will happen time to time with the modern web.  I expect the modern web to be responsible and use SSL and OAuth to securely share my data.  When they are careless and screw things up then they deserve the bad press.  But a story about Facebook Home saying that it “destroys any notion of privacy” is complete and utter bullshit.

I’m not saying that I want to sign up for a service with my email address and phone number and they can turn around and sell this information to a third party.  I don’t want them to publish my phone number without my consent.  Those are violations of my privacy and not something I would agree to.

However, if I sign up for Facebook and they decide to use the fact that I liked ESPN in a personal advertisement, then so be it.  I understand the tradeoffs of the modern web.

I find it funny that we get bombarded with credit card offers and flyers from ten different companies in the mail and no one seems to mind.  We accept those privacy violations offline, even though they offer us nothing in return.  Yet companies online who are innovating and using private data in new ways get so much grief.

No one said you had to join Facebook, use Google, or Twitter.  If you want to pretend its 2002, then that’s fine.  The rest of us are moving forward.  We don’t need you to come along.

This is progress people.  Sit back, relax, and stop your whining.