It seems 2010 may be the year personal privacy makes a comeback -- that, or it's taking its final breath before it sinks into the tarpits. Every week brings news of some new affront to our personal data, accompanied by a backlash. Lately these stories have been bubbling up on an almost daily basis.
It started late last year, when Facebook arbitrarily changed its default privacy settings to make more of your profile information accessible to Google and other Facebook users. You could of course change those settings, but most people didn't. That earned Facebook a class-action suit and ongoing scrutiny by the FTC.
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Then Google introduced its Twitter wannabe service, Buzz. That emerged from the womb with two left feet, both of which it immediately thrust into its own mouth. The biggest problem? Buzz inadvertently shared information about Gmail users' frequent contacts that Gmailers had assumed was private. Google has been eating crow by the family-sized bucket -- and tweaking Buzz to make it more respectful of personal privacy -- ever since.
Last week Netflix canceled its second contest to have math geeks tweak its recommendations engine after the "anonymous" data used by researchers in the first contest proved not quite as anonymous as Netflix thought. A pair of University of Texas researchers proved they could identify individuals by cross-checking their movie preferences with other publicly available information.
At South by Southwest last Friday, Microsoft social media researcher Danah Boyd gave a keynote detailing how privacy has been eroded, largely because the people who build services like Google Buzz and Facebook (aka, "privileged straight white male technology executives") don't understand the differences between privacy online and how it works in the real world.