Cutting Edge Privacy: Facebook and Google

May 17, 2010

What’s going on? The Europeans take umbrage at Google’s alleged collection of personal data whilst Wi-Fi sniffing. Read about the latest Math Club folly in “Google Data Admission Angers Europe.” Now flip to “Can You Quit Facebook?” These two outfits seem to be doing pretty much what they want and then scurrying in different directions to make their behavior somewhat PR-friendly.

In my opinion, the fact that both companies are acting in their own interests is standard operating procedure. The more interesting question is, “Which company is likely to emerge as the victor?”

I found “Ignore The Screams–Facebook’s Aggressive Approach Is Why It Will Soon Become The Most Popular Site In The World” edging toward Facebook’s side of the field. Here’s the passage I found thought provoking:

From a business perspective, in other words, Facebook’s approach to innovation is smart. It’s not always popular, but it works. And if Facebook wants to maintain its competitive edge, it will do what it has to do to smooth over the latest blow-up, and then go forth with the same approach and attitude it has had all along. Step back and think about what Facebook is doing here.  It is pioneering an entirely new kind of service, one that most of its users have never seen before, one with no established practices or rules.  It is innovating in an area–the fine line between public and private–that has always freaked people out. It is allowing people to communicate and share information in ways they never have before. It is making decisions that affect hundreds of millions of people.  And it is trying to stay a step ahead of competitors that would like nothing better than to see it get scared and conservative and thus leave itself open to getting knocked off.

Google’s methods are, if the above analysis is accurate, old school. Facebook is new school. What happens when one old fashioned Soviet leader is replaced with an adjutant to a former Soviet leader? Old methods in a slightly updated package? I do not have an answer, but I think the Facebook frivolity requires close, close observation. It is new in a number of ways.

Stephen E Arnold, May 17, 2010



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