Facebook, Google wrestle with privacy questions

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Now that the Supreme Court has ruled you have a Constitutional right to privacy from government when it comes to new technology devices — but not from companies — both Facebook and Google are testing the waters with new privacy policies.

Facebook came out with a new system that makes it much easier for them to track everything you do. Google, meanwhile, has a new privacy policy that basically gives them the right to take your info and build a dossier on you for the purposes of ad customization. In short, they will pierce your veil of privacy as a means to get higher revenues by targeting ads person by person.

There’s a definite creep out factor to it all, but it is legal in U.S. In Europe, however, it’s just beginning to become illegal.

The Europeans are requiring that websites get your explicit permission to use your information and that they disclose exactly how they will do it. By contrast, here in America, if you don’t accept a website’s privacy policy, you can’t play with them.

Could there be a middle ground?

The things that are available for free on the web we get for free because of the dossiers built on us and the ads served to us. Gmail (or any email service) is not free; it costs big bucks to provide it. Same with YouTube. Same with Facebook. These companies incur enormous expense per customer, but their services are made free to us.

I’m expecting you’ll be able to make a choice in the future: You can either pay for privacy and have access to a service or give up your privacy and get it for free.

I’m hoping for a market-based solution that’s different from the European rules which completely ignore the marketplace. Whatever it is, there does need to be something different than the anarchy that reigns today in the U.S. with our info floating so carelessly out in cyberspace.



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