Thursday, September 06, 2007

Facebook profiles to be made public

Yesterday I woke up to this message on Facebook. Profiles are now available from Facebook's main page (the one you get without being logged in), and soon the listings will also make their way to browsers such as Google. It is possible to change privacy settings in order to place restrictions on search capabilities, so Facebook has a good argument on any privacy abuses that may result from this. Their full statement reads:

"You can control whether you have a public search listing, and where it appears, from your Search Privacy page.
Since your search privacy settings are set to "Everyone," you now have a public search listing. This means that friends who aren't yet on Facebook will be able to search for you by name from our Welcome page. Public Search Listings may only include names and profile pictures.
In a few weeks, these public search listings can be found by search engines like Google. No privacy rules are changing; anyone who discovers your public search listing must register and log in to contact you via Facebook."
This seems like the latest in a growing trend towards higher integration between Web 2.0 tools, and it may be the last nail in the coffin of online privacy. In 1999, Scott McNealy said "You have zero privacy anyway, get over it", his words ring true even to this day, and clearly reflect my own experience with privacy.

At some point (circa 1999), I used to cherish my online privacy, and I believe that my younger self would be appalled by the amount of information that I have made available online. In the early days of the Internet, search engines were less efficient at picking all sorts of data. But as my online presence gained momentum, I realised that the amount of information out there was beyond my control. The curse (and blessing) of having a distinctive and unusual name is that I tend to have a high Google visibility. What to do then? "Get over it" seems like a good motto to live your online life by. Releasing information on your own through social networking has the effect that at least some of the information coming up in search engines is data that you uploaded yourself.

Perhaps we will all have to grow used to the world of the Panopticon, and we should start to assume that we are bing watched at all times. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that they're not after you...

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