John Heilemann has an excellent piece in New York Magazine where he compares the rise of Mark Zuckerberg and Julian Assange. Some folks herald these two guys as leaders in the movement to make the world more transparent. Others blame them for the dramatic erosion of privacy we’ve seen on the web.
But like it or not, the path they are leading us down is not going to be reversed anytime soon (I’m not even sure they’ll be many turns along the way).
… Both have also been subject to fierce and virulent criticism: Zuckerberg and Facebook for sacrificing the privacy of users on the altar of commercial gain; Assange and WikiLeaks for undermining the foundation of diplomacy and putting lives at risk in the process.
These reactions are understandable and, in some cases, warranted. But they are largely beside the point. In a digitized and networked world, Zuckerberg, Assange, and their outfits are merely avatars of the inexorable march toward a radically greater degree of transparency in our personal, cultural, and political spheres. The question about the new transparency isn’t how to thwart it—because we can’t. The question is how we live with it.
When we address the question of how we live with it, I think it’s worth examining the route information takes when it goes from private to public. Assange built a bucket. But for that bucket to be at all interesting or controversial, it needs a lot of other people to fill it. Someone has to put the leaks into Wikileaks.
At Facebook, the path from private to public is even more direct. Zuckerberg gives us a form, and we fill it in ourselves. When your private information ends up public via Facebook, it begins with your own fingertips.