Facebook’s Zuckerberg Questions Privacy Expectations

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of Facebook has said that people no longer have an expectation of privacy thanks to increasing uptake of social networking.

Speaking at the Crunchie Awards in San Francisco this weekend, the 25 year-old web entrepreneur said: “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people.”

Zuckerberg went on to add that the rise of social media reflects the changing attitudes among the general public, saying that this radical change has happened in the space of five years.

“When I got started in my dorm room at Harvard, the question a lot of people asked was, ‘why would I want to put any information on the Internet at all? Why would I want to have a website?’,” he said.

“And then in the last 5 or 6 years, blogging has taken off in a huge way and all these different services that have people sharing all this information,” he said.

Facebook is estimated to have over 100 million users in the United States alone, and more than 350 million users worldwide. Zuckerberg’s comments come after the social networking giant recently decided to (somewhat controversially) change the privacy settings of all its users.

In December, Facebook launched a number of new tools which enabled users to control who sees what content on their account, as well as a Transition Tool and simplified privacy settings.

The issue of privacy is a vexed one, especially in the United Kingdom where, late last year, the Home Office pledged to push ahead with controversial plans to monitor all Internet use. The Ministry is requiring communications firms to monitor all Internet use, and is asking them to retain information on how people use social networks such as Facebook.

Yet the dangers posed by people opening up online to the rest of the world is well know. Back in August, a survey sponsored by British insurance firm Legal & General found that users of social networking sites were giving away vital information about themselves and their whereabouts that was being used by professional burglars to establish a list of targets. The report, “The Digital Criminal,” found that 38 percent of users of sites such as Facebook and Twitter have posted status updates detailing their holiday plans and a third of people have posted status updates saying that they are away for the weekend.

Zuckerberg also said it was important for companies such as Faceook, to reflect the changing social norms in order to remain relevant and competitive.

“A lot of companies would be trapped by the conventions and their legacies of what they’ve built,” he said. “Doing a privacy change for 350 million users is not the kind of thing that a lot of companies would do.

“But we viewed that as a really important thing, to always keep a beginner’s mind and what would we do if we were starting the company now and we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it.”

Photo credit: (CC) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com / bub.blicio.us / CC-BY

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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  • Man, Zuckerberg has it completely wrong. His Company (Facebook) preys on those who do not understand the implications of putting their data online. The expectation of privacy is still there. It will always be there. He is just helping to try to push away from proper and secure privacy measures so that they can shirk their responsibilities to protect their users data. Zuckerberg, pull your head out of your ass. Hell, they are even working on redesigning the entire internet to make security something that is part of the internet, as opposed to tacked on later. Only an uneducated fool would believe the dribble coming out of his mouth. Privacy isn't gone and the expectation of privacy isn't gone, your just trying to kill it so that you can have better targetted ads as well as sell our data to the highest bidder... a jack-off is what he is trying to push his own personal agenda.

  • As a web developer I have been asked by friends whether it is possible to start a private version of "facebook".

    One where detectives cannot snoop around. One where only you or your friends could see what you put up.

    A small implementation is running at http://loggingit.com -- still a ways to go.



  • Just because it has become policy for facebook to violate our privacy by "forcing" publicity does NOT mean it is normal.

  • Given Mark's vast life experience I can see how he might come to that conclusion. This 25-year old kid's perspective could fit on the point of a needle

  • "People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people."

    Certainly when put versus the wild and questionable internet at large, putting a little trust in a top-name responsibly-constructed social network makes some sense - but only when it's NOT going to erode your privacy. Most outcries against the major Facebook upgrades have fundamentally been expressions of privacy concerns, and Mark is not unaware of this.

  • Privacy will always be a social norm. I'm not really sure where Mark is coming from, but here on earth, we enjoy being able to have the freedom to share what we want, when we want, and how we want to.

    If this keeps up I might have to drop social networks altogether because I don't like other people telling me what they think I should and should not share about myself because they feel self-righteous or self-entitled do so.

    Keep your privacy standards to yourself, Mark.

  • How dare these people take it upon themselves to expose the private details of 350 million people. What kind of fallout will those people deal with. There are going to be real casualties here and Facebook has to be held accountable.

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