One of the recurring topics in recent discussions with friends and colleagues has been the amount of data the big online players (i.e. Facebook, Google) are collecting on their users and whether and how exactly users have control of that data. We are (hopefully) (by now) all aware of the fact that Google record all our searches – whether we are logged in to Gmail or not. It’s great that you can easily share the photos from last night’s party with your Facebook “friends”, but do you have full control over who gets to see or even share and distribute them further? If you are interested, you should take a look at Facebook’s privacy terms.
I am planning to write a longer post on the topic after conducting a bit more research as I believe this is one of the important issues that will drive the future of the web; well, at least the way we interact online. I think we have only just scratched the surface of how to deal with this issue. Its importance has exploded due to the new ways people interact online – Google, Facebook, but also think about Twitter, Foursquare or a random review you posted on a site using Facebook Connect and leaving a virtual footprint (for eternity?). Supporters of a rational approach to this might say: “Well, let’s just look at how much value we can derive from the data we share … and then it’s just simply comparing the cost of privacy/sharing with the benefits ..” I doubt it’s really that easy and straight-forward, particularly as certain benefits might only arise over time. There are certainly opinions on both ends of the spectrum (“I share nothing about me online” to “I don’t think there is any harm in sharing all kinds of information about me online”).
I want to share the info-graphic below which was recently posted here. It’s a nice first dive into the numbers of data shared, but far from answering some of my pressing questions. Please let me know thoughts you have / things you are curious about and I ll add it to the list of things to investigate/think about.