In 2004 everyone freaked out when Gmail launched because Google would be reading your emails to figure out what ads to serve you. “Privacy advocates objected to the advertising model, which involves Google’s robot eyes scanning every e-mail for keywords and displaying contextual advertisements alongside a user’s inbox,” noted Wired.
That might sound familiar to your great-great-great grandparents. Supposedly many people were apprehensive about using telephones in the early 1900s because they knew the phone companies could listen in on their phone calls. There are people who won’t use phones today because of the ease in which calls can be tapped.
But the rest of us seem to be ok with Gmail. And our phone. That’s because the benefits of those products far outweigh the privacy costs. And people are going to be just fine with Facebook, too. Even if they did do a switcharoo on privacy settings a month ago that is still reverberating through the tech press.
Contrary to published reports, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg did not say “the age of privacy is over” in my interview with him last Friday evening at the Crunchies. You can watch the video here for yourself. What he said is that he wants Facebook to change with its users, and keep its product fresh. Which is exactly what they are doing.
The fact is that privacy is already really, really dead. Howard Lindzon nailed it the other day when he said “Equifax, Transunion, Capital One, American Express and their cousins raped our privacy,” Everything we do, everything we buy, everywhere we go is tracked and sitting in a database somewhere. Our location via our phone, or our car GPS. Our credit card transactions. Everything. Honestly, a picture of you taking a bong hit in college is mice nuts compared to the mountain of data that is gathered and exploited about every single one of us every single day. You just don’t really see that other stuff because those companies don’t like to talk about the data their gathering. I don’t see an Equifax blog post outlining exactly how they are gathering and selling your information, for example.
The point is that we like Facebook. Very, very few of us are going to stop using it. It was inevitable that they’d rip the bandaid off and try to get their users to make data public. It’s what’s best for Facebook. And if users hate it enough, someone else will launch a competing service that has different policies and thrive. You can guess what the odds of that happening are.
Crazy right? Who’d want to do that? Well, apparently a lot do. The company has let in 2,500 people so far. Those 2,500 people are publishing $200,000 worth of purchases a day to their friends. It’s less than a month old and they’ve tracked $3.8 million in transactions already, with an average transaction size of $46.
And more than 10,000 people are on the waiting list to get an account and gladly share their consumption behavior with the world.
Why are they doing it? To share what they’re buying, and talk about it. Or to let advertisers see what they like and tailor offers to them. Or something. The point is, we don’t really care about privacy anymore. And Facebook is just giving us exactly what we want.