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Now that Facebook CEO has recapitulated his “Transparency is the default” stance on the world’s largest social media site (with more members than there are US residents), will the discussion about privacy die down?
Unfortunately, probably not. All social media sites will now be scrutinized with the same lense that Facebook was. Twitter who just launched its new in-house advertising team is likely to see this discussion resurface as advertisers demand more insight from Twitter as well. Start watching for your Twitter profile to change.
The Facebook changes were a triumph of the free market, after weeks of pressure, Facebook finally realized that its advertisers (who are its paying customers) wouldn’t be happy if users (who pay nothing) left in droves. But this is an important turning point in the evolution of social media and indeed the internet. Whose responsibility is it to protect user privacy? Do we agree with Zuckerberg that they backbone of the internet and in particular, is transparency and openness or are we not quite there yet? Most importantly, do we think this is something the government should be involved in or would we prefer to continue to use our collective (and much faster) power as users? Or should social media companies adopt their own set of ethics by which all users who choose to participate can readily read? Ethics being a “do no evil”-type mantra, a philosophy by which the company agrees to abide, not because its forced to via the law, but because they think its the right thing to do for everyone involved. An ethics agreement should look significantly different from the User Agreement most people skim when agreeing to use a social media site, an application or even software.
Further, the space between what is ethical and what is legal in this country continues to occupy a gray sinkhole in our collective imaginations. Advertisers will continue to push the envelope for more personalized, relevant ads. Arguably, there is even a benefit to users for relevant ads. But by drafting an ethical behavior models and practices, social media shows the its users that it isn’t afraid to be transparent about its motives. Instead of the government getting involved with creating complicated, loophole-ridden legislation, social media companies who are proactive will head off government intervention that has almost never benefited delivery systems of advertising.
Perhaps this idea is Utopian, but not too long ago, the idea of Facebook was too. Maybe Zuckerberg has a point, maybe transparency should be more prevalent, but in return, maybe social media could follow the lead of “Do no evil” Google and change the face of corporate America and in fact, ensuring trust and therefore a more open community for both users, companies and advertisers.
What do you think the next step for social media should be? Should the government be stepping in? Should the free market continue its swift justice? Should social media companies adopt an ethics code?