On watching this interview, I was struck by the naivete of Mark Zuckerberg’s view of the world.
Zuckerberg, the 25-year-old CEO of Facebook, argues that privacy is ‘no longer a social norm’. It’s an interesting proposition, and one that deserves exploration. Are people’s views of privacy changing? Was privacy ever a ‘social norm’, and if so what does that mean? Is there evidence now that public views of privacy have changed?
The problem is that these are not simple quesions, and it is unclear whether Zuckerberg’s view is based on anything more than his particular 25-years’ experience. The closest thing he has to an argument is this:
When I got started in my dorm room at Harvard, the question a lot of people asked was, ‘why would I want to put any information on the internet at all? Why would I want to have a website?’. Then in the last 5 or 6 years, blogging has taken off in a huge way, and just all these different services that have people sharing all this information.
It’s not an argument, it’s a personal anecdote, followed by a platitude about the growth of blogging and ways to share information online, reaching a conclusion about the views of all the people, presumably, in the world.
Zuckerberg’s argument is further flawed because it is so obviously self-serving. In a way, no matter the validity of what he is saying (and it is not valid), he of all people just can’t credibly say it. If Facebook wants to make this case, it should find ways to come across as objective. Let others say it, perhaps, or provide evidence.
Facebook’s decisions about my privacy, which are taken from time to time without my permission, are simply out of my control. That is not the same as my not expecting privacy – which is what Zuckerberg is implying by his statement about social norms. Perhaps he has some evidence that paints me as abnormally focused on privacy. If so – let’s see it.
The long-term issue here is trust. The more Facebook fosters distrust among its users, the sooner they will leave at the first genuine opportunity. Don’t get me wrong – Facebook currently is the best platform in the market for doing what it does. But it won’t be forever, and it’s popularity can disappear as quickly as it has grown. Time to go back to having a ‘beginner’s mind’, Mark, and start listening.