Monday, May 24, 2010

Facebook's Privacy Problems and the Gulf Oil Spill

The tech world was front page news as Facebook, came under attack this morning, seeming perhaps to draw some fire away from BP. The latter of course are the well-known perpetrators of what threatens to be the worst environmental disaster of the 21st century thus far.

Sitting here, sucking up power on the laptops and desktops we are reading this on, this disaster perhaps serves to illuminate the dangers of living globally through technology as we do. There was a time when to cross the ocean you sailed on a ship, harnessing natures power temporarily and leaving a relatively clean wake behind you.

Nowadays we move about in gas guzzling, climate damning cars and planes while circumnavigating the globe daily through digital means.

Our increasingly vigorous attempts to put the squeeze on the world for energy as if it were an orange to be juiced has lead us to problems before and certainly will do so again. Currently, cries of "drill, baby drill," are being drowned out by, "Spill, baby spill." Clearly to continue in the global, technology driven lifestyle we enjoy, innovations and adjustments will ultimately be needed.


In the midst of all this the social networking site du jour, Facebook has also come under fire.

Today Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg went into full-on damage control mode in an open letter to the Washington Post. Zuckerberg admitted that the site has "missed the mark," in terms of it's complicated privacy settings and made the pledge to do better.

Zuckerberg, went on to admit that the site, which has exploded in popularity over the last three years has been "growing quickly," adding that "sometimes we move to fast."

Zuckerberg assured users that in the coming weeks privacy settings would be introduced that would be easier to use than the system currently in place. Many users have complained that the current system is confusing.

Just as BP's seeming ineptitude has added fuel to the oil spill fire, Zuckerberg is experiencing some problems of his own that are similarly jacking up the Facebook fallout factor.

Recently a years-old IM thread surfaced in which Zuckerberg, then a 19-year-old student bragged that through nascent version of Facebook he had been able to assemble the personal information from thousands of users.

Computers As Humans chooses to give Mr. Zuckerberg rather a wide berth for these comments. There are very few of who could honestly stand up and account for everything we said or did as teenagers.

Unfortunately nowadays so much of what we do is ultimately processed through digital channels. Texts, emails, IMs, chatrooms, Twitter and social networking sites all add up to a massive virtual paper trail. We are effectively recording and potentially archiving even the most mundane or damning aspects of our lives.

Living online to the state we do now, is in some ways like drilling for oil in the deep, deep sea. In both instances we are exploring uncharted, and sometimes dangerous territory.

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