What is Privacy?

My grandmother used to tell me never to do anything that I wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the newspaper. Maybe she lived up to this ethical standard, but she’d be the only one. Substitute “internet” for “newspaper” and here we are.

In today’s NY Times, there’s an article about Facebook backing off its too aggressive advertising policy. No surprise.

The article had an interesting comment from an exec of a top interactive agency:

Isn’t this community getting a little hypocritical?… Now, all of a sudden, they don’t want to share something?

Well just because they want to share something doesn’t mean they want to share it with you. I often have to remind my five year old of that.

More generally, though, the issue isn’t revealing personal facts–people do that all the time in every human venue–the issue is having control over the personal facts you reveal.

There is a certain hypocrisy at work, but it’s not a 50-million-strong mass hypocrisy. It’s the hypocrisy of the media companies that back off personal targeting when it is exposed to their users but keep doing it when it’s “behind the scenes, where consumers do not notice it.”