Is It in Facebook’s Interest to Protect the Privacy of Users?

Tekla Perry:

Facebook’s business model is about trust, not about collecting data and monetizing it, and if it could just communicate that concept more clearly, everything would be better.

That’s the message Facebook’s deputy chief privacy officer, Rob Sherman, tried to get across to a crowded auditorium at Stanford University earlier this month. Sherman was speaking at a session of a Stanford Continuing Studies course titled “The Ethics of Technological Innovation.” The panel of Stanford faculty and staff members, along with representatives from the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reviewed a wide range of privacy issues in an increasingly connected world. But the discussion kept coming back to Facebook, and whether anyone really believes the social media company is out to protect users and their privacy.

All panelists agreed that privacy is an important right. Sherman was quick to point out, however, that privacy is not a simple on-off switch. “People are on Facebook because they want to share information about themselves,” he said. “A lot of privacy is being able to choose what you are sharing and with whom, [and] knowing who has information about you and how they are using it.” Facebook’s goal is to make privacy “right for what each person wants,” he added.