Jim Harris’ recent post “Is Social MDM Going the Wrong Way?” got me thinking. In it, Jim writes:
Right now, users give away valuable information about themselves, but I fully expect to see services pop up that act as personal data brokers, giving users a cut of the money made from their personal information – the data users explicitly choose to share, not what is gathered about them sneakily. Again, this business model has long existed, but not in a way that allows individuals to participate in the proceeds.
I’d like to expand upon the business model of personal data in today’s post, particularly with respect to Facebook.
We in the United States don’t take privacy that seriously, especially in comparison to European countries. Perhaps the most intriguing analysis here comes from James Q. Whitman, a professor of comparative law at Yale. Whitman recently wrote a profound article addressing this very issue. In “The Two Western Cultures of Privacy: Dignity Versus Liberty” he writes that Americans value liberty while Europeans value dignity.
Of course, not everyone in the US looks at privacy the same way that I look at VCR tapes: a relic of a bygone era. In fact, Facebook alternatives abound. Consider Diaspora, a very different type of social network – one that gives users a great deal of control over which data is shared.
As Jim writes in his post, one can certainly envision a day in which personal data brokers – and even data cleaners – thrive. Perhaps a critical mass of people will realize that oversharing is a problem. Think of the recent college grad who’s having a hard time finding a job because of some, er, compromising photos easily viewable by any recruiter. (Note to Millenials looking for a full-time gig. Recruiters go to social media sites early and often when assessing your “fit.”)
Let’s not demonize Facebook here. Facebook forces us to share nothing. We’re squarely in the social web and connecting with friends is certainly fun. I just question whether it’s the premise for such a lofty market valuation, especially if people get tired of being social.
What say you?