Earlier this year, Facebook's Zuckerberg said that the age of privacy is over. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, LinkedIn's Hoffman echoed that sentiment (view the video below) - musing that privacy was an issue of "old people" and that younger people are not so concerned over privacy. Many will disagree that privacy is a concern only to certain demographics and many will also disagree that people have to cede privacy simply to leverage social networking. It borders on the absurd and demonstrates either a lack of knowledge about a complicated challenge - or reveals the dilemma operators of social network sites face in terms of a credible business model. In this case, I believe it's both. LinkedIn and Facebook simply do not seem to understand the social dynamics around privacy and compound the problem by implementing technology in a way that exacerbates the privacy challenge (perhaps more so in the case of Facebook).
In order to establish sustainable business models, operators of social network sites will continue to change terms of service and other policies to forcefully encourage people to become uncomfortably public. Twitter perhaps has avoided some of these issues because there are few controls over how people share information Twitter begins the relationship with its members in a more transparent manner - that "everything is on the public timeline". However, Facebook long ago set expectations by offering members a more complete set of controls for people to share information on a perceived limited basis. So when executives from consumer social network sites talk about privacy, I react to whatever they say with a health dose of skepticism. It is self-serving in fact for social network site execs to go on stage and diminish the value of privacy when they benefit by its very erosion (to the dismay of members).
The risks and rewards of sharing information online | John Gapper's Business Blog | FT.com
It can be hard to find an actual disagreement at Davos, given the social effects of sticking a lot of people in workshops and asking them to flesh out the future of the world convivially.
So it was encouraging (for a journalist) to come across a clear and important divide in the first session I attended this morning, on internet social networks.
The topic was privacy, a contentious one for social networks such as Facebook (represented in the session by Randi Zuckerberg, sister of its founder). Facebook’s recent changes to its privacy settings to open up more content to the public caused a backlash.
Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, the professional social network, told the session that “all of the concerns about privacy tend to be old people issues.” Young people generally put mobile phone numbers on social networks because “the value of being connected and transparent is so high.”