Bookmark: "Facebook's move ain't about changes in privacy norms"

Sebastian Greger


Like myself, danah boyd just “wanted to scream” when Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed privacy to be dead.

Privacy isn’t a technological binary that you turn off and on. Privacy is about having control of a situation. It’s about controlling what information flows where and adjusting measures of trust when things flow in unexpected ways. It’s about creating certainty so that we can act appropriately. People still care about privacy because they care about control.

She counters the narrative of “privacy is dead” with “publicity has value” and weights these two against each other. Talking about “public-ness” as a privilege, about “the social costs of being public”, and highlights that the perceived change in norms (which they really aren’t) is more about the new possibilities of being public, rather than a decline in the need or desire for privacy (when thinking of it not as the opposite of being public, but as “control”):

What’s changing is the opportunity to be public and the potential gain from doing so. […] People care deeply about privacy, especially those who are most at risk of the consequences of losing it. Let us not forget about them. It kills me when the bottom line justifies social oppression. Is that really what the social media industry is about?

It’s this binary thinking about privacy on vs. off that is equally flawed as the binary thinking about technology use vs. non-use.

I'm Sebastian, Sociologist and Interaction Designer. This journal is mostly about bringing toge­ther social science and design for inclusive, privacy-focused, and sustainable "human-first" digital strategies. I also tend to a "digital garden" with carefully curated resources.

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