Privacy is a cultural context, not an immutable law.
A couple related notes on privacy:
Joseph Bonneau on The Economics of Privacy on Social Networks:
The most interesting story we found though was how sites consistently hid any mention of privacy, until we visited the privacy policies where they provided paid privacy seals and strong reassurances about how important privacy is. We developed a novel economic explanation for this: sites appear to craft two different messages for two different populations. Most users care about privacy but don’t think about it in day-to-day life. Sites take care to avoid mentioning privacy to them, because even mentioning privacy positively will cause them to be more cautious about sharing data. This phenomenon is known as “privacy salience” and it makes sites tread very carefully around privacy, because users must be comfortable sharing data for the site to be fun.
… The privacy fundamentalists of the world may be positively influencing privacy on major sites through their pressure. Indeed, the bigger, older, and more popular sites we studied had better privacy practices overall. But the desire to limit privacy salience is also a major problem because it prevents sites from providing clear information about their privacy practices. Most users therefore can’t tell what they’re getting in to, resulting in the predominance of poor-practices in this “privacy jungle.”
(via Alan Patrick, We support privacy, but not in public)
Jan Chipchase, Practices Around Privacy:
Privacy, lest we forget, is a cultural context, not an immutable law.
All of us are defining our shared privacy rights by what we reward with our attention, through our actions online and offline and the technology we use, in how and what we discuss, what we write, link, share and like, every single day. Supply has an odd habit of meeting demand…
The login page to Facebook might be the biggest contributor on the web to this mistaken notion of online privacy.
Really, it shouldn’t be hard to imagine data about our online actions being aggregated and structured, we’re not stupid; the real issue is that we just don’t have a real reason to care (yet). The issue isn’t about privacy, it’s about control.
Vendors: give me a way to give better data to you, to have more control over our “relationship” and to scale that across multiple vendors, and I’ll give you even more data about me.
Better yet, Facebook: let me make my entire profile public. Seriously. Nothing would stop people more from posting information they think is private (but isn’t) than by owning up to reality and making everything public.
Or perhaps, merely giving people the option to make everything public…
Which is a bit of a hot topic at the moment: even if Facebook is only testing and has yet to become public by default, consider this story about Zuckerberg from Jeff Jarvis’s book What Would Google Do?, via Fred Wilson:
At Davos, Mark told the story of an art class he took at Harvard. He was busy starting Facebook and didn’t have time to attend the class or study. The final exam was a week away and he was worried about flunking. So he went to the Internet and downloaded images of all the art that he knew would be on the exam (not sure how he knew that – Jeff leaves that part out). He puts them all up on a web page and adds blank boxes under each of them. Then he emails the web page to all of his classmates and tells them he just put up a study guide. The class responds by marking up the page, editing each other, and getting it perfect. Zuckerberg aces the exam, of course, but also the professor told him that the entire class had done much better than usual on the exam.
Old habits die hard :)