Facebook’s Zuckerberg: Privacy No Longer a “Social Norm”


In an interview with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said that he had done an “about face” on privacy and argued that it is no longer a “social norm”. The 25-year-old Facebook entrepreneur was speaking at TechCrunch’s ‘Crunchie’ awards in San Francisco over the weekend.

Zuckerberg’s privacy stance dovetails with the recent dubious changes to Facebook’s privacy settings, which made more personal information public and reduced users’ control over their personal data. (The Electronic Privacy Information Center asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into the changes Facebook made to the privacy settings and to force Facebook to restore its old privacy protections.)

Claiming that online users have adapted to sharing information online via blogs and other social media, Zuckerberg said that “if he had created Facebook today, as opposed to several years ago, he would have made user information public, not private, by default as it was for years until the company changed dramatically in December,” ReadWriteWeb reports.

Here’s the portion of the interview in which he discusses his views on privacy, transcribed by ReadWriteWeb. In response to the question, “Where is privacy on the Web going?”, Zuckerberg says:

“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?’

“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. People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.

“We view it as our role in the system to constantly be innovating and be updating what our system is to reflect what the current social norms are.

“A lot of companies would be trapped by the conventions and their legacies of what they’ve built, doing a privacy change – 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.”

Watch TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington’s six-minute interview with Zuckerberg in the video below, and read more in ReadWriteWeb’s excellent piece on the implications of Zuckerberg’s position on privacy on ReadWriteWeb — the quote about privacy is from 3:00 to 4:00.

Is Zuckerberg right about changing attitudes toward online privacy? Do you expect a degree of privacy on social networks? Do you think becoming more public will help or hurt Facebook?

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