The popularity of Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz and a host of other social networks has more than once prompted the question: Is privacy dead? Just in reading about it, I noticed that the answers are all over the board.
Privacy advocates say it shouldn't be and that we need to be more careful about what we share and don't share online. Mark Zuckerberg, Eric Schmidt and others in similar positions say no one wants privacy anymore. If they did, they wouldn't be posting everything from how many miles they've run today to what they had for a midnight snack on these sites. And then there are those who stand to make a buck by convincing us that privacy is teetering on the edge of extinction, but their software or their service can help us keep our privacy alive.
I decided to throw the question out there to see if anyone else had a different idea. So in a completely unscientific poll of roughly 20 folks who responded to my e-mail, I found six who say privacy is alive and three who think it is dead beyond any hope of revival.
The more interesting responses came from those who fell somewhere in the middle. For instance, BigFix CTO Amrit Williams told me:
Online privacy may not be completely dead, but a prudently paranoid person would assume that they have no privacy and conduct themselves accordingly. It's not so much that evil hackers or big brother are watching your every move, but almost any personal data revealed via the Internet has some value to someone, often in ways that are impossible to anticipate.
There is definitely a loss of privacy from the widespread use of the Internet, but we'll probably accept that loss as an acceptable cost of using that technology. Privacy isn't dead because of the Internet, but that's because we'll adjust our understanding of what level of privacy is acceptable because of it.
But BabyLegs.com founder Nicole Donnelly probably summed it up best:
Online privacy is as alive as you want it to be. With the expectation of transparency so prevalent, you have the option to choose how much you want to disclose.