Facebook puts your privacy on parade

Would you reveal your deepest secrets to 350 million people? Facebook might, if you're not careful.

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Interestingly, after Facebook's default settings changed, Zuckerberg's personal profile went from being virtually inaccessible (unless you were the CEO's friend) to nearly wide open, allowing any Facebooker to view the 290 photos he'd posted. These included several of Zucky the Party Animal (the worst of which Gawker happily scooped up and republished). A couple of days later those photos were mysteriously inaccessible again.

So much for social norms.

After those changes, 10 privacy groups banded together and filed a protest with the FTC about Facebooks' sudden open-book privacy policy. In response, Facebook also made a few small tweaks to restore some (but not all) of its previous privacy settings.

Zuckerberg's comments last week just re-ignited the Facebook privacy debate, including the inevitable responses from knuckleheads like Arrington "that privacy is already really, really dead....we don’t really care about privacy anymore. And Facebook is just giving us exactly what we want."

(There is, however, no truth to the rumor that Zuckerberg is planning to publish nude pix of himself on his profile as part of Facebook's new "bare it and share it" campaign.)

It's almost always the case that people who like to say "privacy is dead, get over it," a) have a financial interest in buying and selling personal information, and b) guard their own personal information zealously, even if they live otherwise very public lives.

For example: I'm still waiting for Arrington to share his Social Security number with the world, like the Lifelock CEO he seems to like so much, or post pix from his vacation at that nudist colony (I'm making that last bit up -- I hope). Even if he did, that doesn't mean other people should.

People may not give a damn about some kinds of personal information, but they care a great deal about other information. The stuff they care about just varies from person to person.

In fact, it's usually the most public of us that have the greatest need for privacy. Exotic dancers may take their clothes off in public (or on MySpace), but they don't usually use their real names or broadcast their home address. Their bodies may be public, but not their identities.

Likewise, just because women shared their bra colors on Facebook to raise awareness of breast cancer doesn't mean they want to share that information with the marketers at Victoria's Secrets. (Facebook is not explicitly doing this, but opening up people's status updates to searches makes that possible.)

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