An addicted insider’s account of our real lives in the era of the realtime, social web.

Confession #63: Are We Really Dumb Zucks?

The controversy around Facebook’s privacy policies has been growing. And now some instant messages that may have been sent by a then 19 year-old Mark Zuckerberg are fueling the fire. Here’s the conversation that’s being circulated.

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard

Zuck: Just ask.

Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses…

[Redacted Friend's Name]: What? How’d you manage that one?

Zuck: People just submitted it.

Zuck: I don’t know why.

Zuck: They “trust me”

Zuck: Dumb fucks.

While I focus on these privacy issues for the purposes of this blog, I am not a particularly private person. When I was a kid, I used to print out and bind multiple copies of thirty-page rants and mail them to my friends. I was oversharing long before anyone had heard of social networks. If I thought there was a chance you’d subscribe, I’d run an RSS feed out of my unconscious.

But there are things that even I want private. For example, my wife and I have a very clear Facebook strategy. As the CEO of Splendora, she has a public persona and accepts almost everyone from her company’s extended community as a Facebook friend. On the other hand, I use Facebook very sparingly and I only friend those people who I really know. So on the rare occasions when we decide to share a couple photos of our kids, we only do so via my Facebook account.

But here’s the key. I never share anything on any site anywhere on the web regardless of any privacy settings unless I am willing to accept that the data might one day be public.

Now I am all for people fighting back against Facebook’s constantly mutating privacy policy – which is now longer than the U.S. Constitution. As this graphic so elegantly illustrates, they have been changing the rules and turning on more sharing by default. So sure, give them a hard time and maybe even take your (personal) business elsewhere. But that won’t completely solve the problem.

Does Mark Zuckerberg care that his old instant messages are being revealed? I have no idea. But you can bet that when he wrote them, he was not expecting they’d be made available for public consumption. And now they are. And that’s the point of this story.

If this Facebook privacy controversy teaches you anything, it should teach you this: The one internet privacy policy that really matters is your own. If you want it private, don’t share it. Because what’s private today might be public tomorrow. Period.

If we’re not willing to manage our own privacy, then maybe the 19 year-old Zuckerberg’s description of us was right on the mark.

I Never Tell Zuckerberg Anything

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My name is Dave Pell, internet superhero. This blog provides an addicted insider's account of what's happening to us in the era of the realtime, social web. You can read more about the site, grab the rss feed, follow me on twitter, join the Facebook page, or get email updates.