Every day, it seems, there is a new scandal about privacy and social networks. And few people have a better understanding of social networks’ threat to our privacy and liberty than the Chicago-based legal scholar, technologist and best-selling thriller writer, Lori Andrews. In her latest book, “I Know Who You Are And I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy”, Andrews argues that social networks like Facebook and Google+ are, indeed, destroying our privacy.
Google and Facebook are “intermediaries for the government”, Andrews told me when she came into our San Francisco studio earlier this month. Much of their business model, she insists, is based on “deception” – particularly, Andrews says, the way in which online aggregators like Google or Axiom are profiting from all of our personal data. But “the pendulum is swinging”, Andrews notes. One the one hand, she says, more and more Internet users are waking up to the threat of social networks; and, on the other, she is encouraged by the emergence of technology startups dedicated to protecting rather than exploiting our privacy.
So is Andrews right: are Google and Facebook really “intermediaries” for the government?