2010-08-08 Update: Perhaps online privacy is important after all?

The recent Google Buzz fallout has me confused.

Why does everyone get so bent out of shape about public privacy?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big advocate of personal privacy.  People should be able to do whatever they want in their homes, behind closed doors without being harassed – as long as it’s legal, of course :)

Your online activities, however, are by default not really that private.  Maybe people just don’t understand this.

Even if you’re using a brower’s “privacy mode”, anonymous proxies, etc., you’re still leaving a digital trail behind you.

Clearly things like credit card numbers, social security numbers, health information, etc. need to be protected, and that’s what strong encryption and privacy laws are for.

Likewise, it should be illegal for unauthorized snooping – key loggers, spyware, etc. are like phone wiretaps and should be treated similarly.

But I don’t think status updates, or drunken club photos that you willingly upload should fall under the same legislation.

Before you send an email or post something on Facebook, stop and consider for a moment that you’re creating an essentially permanent digital record of that content.

It you upload content you later regret, it’s not Facebook’s fault, nor Google’s, nor that of any other online provider.

It’s your own fault for putting it out there to begin with.

Even if Google published your entire Contact List for the world to see, would that really be horrible privacy breach?

I’m sure a lot of people would view it that way, but I don’t know if Google really has (or should have) any legal obligation to keep that type of information private.

Clearly this is a subject that will require much debate, but I think at least some of the responsibility for keeping things private should rest on the end user.

Perhaps Google just needs to continue with some of the modifications they’ve made so far – making it more obvious to people what they’re sharing, and warning them (maybe with bold, highlighted, flashing text) of the possible implications.