Zuckerberg: I know that people don't want privacy

In an interview in front of a live audience, the Facebook founder says if he were starting all over again, he'd make everyone's information public. Because that is the "social norm."

I am sure that Facebook will endure until well beyond our being twinned with the Planet Tush.

Facebook employees will, as the years go by, leave the company to enter politics more frequently. They will be elected with landslide majorities and they will be extremely popular as they will anticipate people's needs far quicker than the conventional gray-haired folks who buy ill-fitting clothes at expensive retailers and currently sit in the Senate.

How can I be so sure? Well, I just watched this video of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg being interviewed by a very nice man in a suit.

And in it, around the three-minute mark, he says: "People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time."

Perhaps you weren't aware that people's comfort with sharing had become a new social norm. Perhaps you were naive enough to think that people used laptops and social-networking sites to connect very specifically with certain other people in order to share certain things. You know, in a relatively private way. Like letters that fly at the speed of light. You were mistaken.

Hark the Facebook herald: "We view it as our role in the system to constantly be innovating and be updating what our system is to reflect what the current social norms are," he said.

You were, you see, mistaken to a stunning degree. In order to understand what really makes society go from a tick to a tock, you should use Facebook's policy changes as a guide. If Facebook decrees that your information ought to be frightfully public, then that merely reflects your lassitude in realizing that pretty much everyone out there wants their information to be public. Please keep up with the social norms. Society demands it.

Talking of social norms, perhaps I gave the impression that it was you, the users, who expressed to Facebook what these social norms actually are. Well, not exactly. You see Facebook simply decides what the social norms are and goes for it. How dare I say this, publicly no less, with such confidence?

Merely because Zuckerberg said it first. He declared that it was important for his company to "always keep a beginner's mind and what would we do if we were starting the company now and we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it."

Gosh, it's hard to keep up with these pesky social norms. They change so very, very quickly. Two years ago, Zuckerberg told ReadWriteWeb that privacy controls were "the vector around which Facebook operates."

I know you'll be wanting evidence for this massive recent social shift that has happened before your very lazy eyes, beneath your nose, and inside your online entrails. Zuckerberg pointed to the "rise of blogging" and "all these different services that have people sharing all this information."

You, too, can tomorrow blog or create a service and look forward to changing a social norm. Aim high. You might be able to change the social norm for, say, war or typing while walking.

But in order to change a social norm from, say, a tendency to cherish privacy to an embrace of indiscriminately public displays of information, what you'll need is 350 million users, a nice large number that might be very attractive to advertisers, as long as those advertisers can discover as much about your members as immediately as possible.

Then tell your members that you are changing the privacy rules not because you can see a golden brick road ahead of you, laden with untold lashings of lucre, but because this is quite clearly what they want. They just don't know it yet. But you do, because you have the unique ability to see to the other side of rainbows. And demand curves.

The mark of a great company lies in anticipating the needs of its customers. Facebook has clearly shown its talent in doing just that. Now, if only it could make a little more money from that talent, we'd all be happy. Wouldn't we?

 

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