how do you know who cares?

Low participation in Quit Facebook Day has led some to claim that “no one really cares” about privacy – the argument seems to be that since Facebook didn’t lose many accounts, that must mean that people don’t care. The author asserts:"I think I don't care" by VanessaO

Go ahead. Name me one company of a significant size whose business suffered due to its treatment of people’s private data.  Unless I’m missing something, you can’t. . . . In the online world, I can’t name a single significant company that had a problem. They pay lip service to being concerned about privacy, but, in fact, a small number of verbal people whine, but very few leave. If a site is useful, most people (not you, the smart readers of this blog, but average everyday people) vaguely wonder about what happened, but won’t give up their site.

Never mind that the claim is transparently self-serving and ignorant of actual research, let’s try to repeat the same argument in other contexts.

No one really cares about poisonous chemicals in their food.  I can’t think of a single company that failed due to pesticide use. Never mind the $23 billion in organic food sales in the U.S.

No one really cares about security flaws in operating systems or web browsers.  I can’t think of a single company that failed due to computer security issues.  Never mind the $16 billion in security software sales.

No one really cares about paying taxes.  I can’t think of a single government that failed due to tax assessment and collection.  Never mind that whole taxation without representation flap a few hundred years ago.

This is silly.  The question of whether or not people care about something is not answered by asking whether businesses fail when they don’t provide that something.  A better answer can be found in asking whether businesses can be formed around providing that something.

Facebook is not the problem – it's too easy to fix!

I’ve had mixed feelings about the recent Facebook controversies.  In case you missed it, many people are saying that Facebook has gone rogue – led by amoral management, they’ve pushed radical transparency upon unwilling users, hiding their moves behind a everchanging array of bewildering settings.

I’m glad to see so many people beginning to grapple with the fact that they’ve given their information away to services that are too hard to control.

But it would be a mistake to think that Facebook is the problem.  For one thing, the problem that Facebook poses here is too easy to fix.  On May 7, I told a group of people at PrivacyCamp that Bynamite could give them a “one button” solution to fix Facebook privacy.

The Friends Only ButtonTwelve days later, we’ve launched The One Button Rule.  The “Friends Only” button automatically changes all your settings to Friends Only, and monitors those settings to make sure that Facebook doesn’t change them back.  There are several other solutions available as well – of course I think that ours is the easiest and most effective (we’re the only ones that automatically monitor and fix all settings), but go ahead and try them all and decide for yourself.

My point isn’t that the Friends Only button is the best; my point is that once people got motivated, it took less than a couple of weeks to see many solutions appear.  No matter how they try, Facebook really can’t deny people what we want – if people really want something, solutions will be made on the market to give it.  Even Facebook sees the writing on the wall at this point, promising that they’ll make privacy simple.

You may or may not trust them, given their history.  Nevertheless, the new solutions will win out and force Facebook to do the right thing.

But these easy fixes are only addressing the tip of the iceberg.  Facebook is only the most visible service that constantly collects and uses your information in ways you don’t understand and can’t control.  The mass of this iceberg is still under water, and we are all still heading towards it.  This is a hard problem to see, to understand, and to explain – and that’s our larger mission.  Bynamite is still in rough beta, but in a few weeks we’ll launch a new version and we’ll have a lot more to say.