Most people don’t care about their digital privacy

By Anthony De Rosa
December 17, 2012

Most of us simply don’t care about our digital privacy. Sure, you see people citing their displeasure every time Facebook changes their terms of service, but with more than a billion users, few actually leave. Today, Instagram took a chance on its own privacy policy, betting that people will treat its service the same way. Instagram now will feature advertising on its mobile application that uses your name, likeness and content, tracks your location and shares the data with Facebook.

The geek chorus is again warming up its pipes. However, I doubt that many will bother to stop taking fauxstalgically filtered photos of every waking moment.

Here are the key additions from Instagram:

Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.

You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.

Personally, it doesn’t bother me because I know and accept the tradeoff. I understand, begrudgingly, that I have to be vigilant about checking my account settings on Facebook, for example. Every time Facebook makes a change to its terms, I must review them to make sure it hasn’t added some default sharing function that I need to switch off. I accept this in exchange for using the service for free. I realize if I don’t like the rules it has set, I can leave anytime I want to.

When it comes to services such as Facebook, most users aren’t even aware that they have to check , and as Facebook changes its policies, people give up more of their control over their personal information than they realize.

Though some argue, leaving is not as easy — that having a Facebook account is somehow necessary to be a productive member of society.

 

 

 

 

 

Would it be any better if these services charged to use them, rather than use our data in return? The whole construct would probably collapse. Without the ability of the services to build a business around the content we’re all feeding into the system, there’s nothing left to offer.

It seems plausible that perhaps they could offer additional services to some users willing to pay in exchange for keeping more of their content out of the hands of marketers. I’d be willing to pay for an ad-less Instagram. I just don’t know if the economics of that deal makes sense for Instagram the company, I suspect they’ll make more money by continuing to hit up advertisers again and again rather than sell me their app on a one-time basis. They could potentially up-sell add-ons later: better filters, the ability to buy physical prints, posters, calendars, etc.

Digital literacy, part of which is understanding what you give up in exchange for free Internet services, is something most of the public simply isn’t motivated to learn. It’s just as true that those who should know better will give up their privacy in exchange for the shiny new app. Add it up, and there’s no reason for Facebook or anyone else to change how they do business because they’ve learned they can get away with it.

The alternative is decentralized social networks that act as a public utility rather than a business. That’s what Diaspora tried to do and ultimately failed.

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