Online Privacy Is The New 'Programming A VCR'

No matter how technically savvy you are, you probably never mastered programming the VCR. Back in the days of VCR dominance, I had friends who could build computers from scratch, program scripts and navigate DOS with ease. They were all brought to tears by the VCR. Why didn’t it record the show I set it to record? God knows.

Programming the VCR was way too complicated for the utility it delivered.

Most people just watched movies on the VCR while its clock still showed a blinking “12:00”, and gave up entirely on the hope of programming their VCR to start recording a show at a given time in the future.

Facebook’s now done a pretty good job offering every conceivable privacy option. I can even restrict viewing of just my hometown to a specific list of contacts. Here’s a screenshot I made combining every FB privacy settings page:

FB privacy

This isn’t a criticism of Facebook (not that they don’t have their faults). It just seems the social web is getting too complicated to offer practical privacy solutions. Do I want my photos to only go out to my Facebook friends? Who’d I friend again? I want friends of people I tag in photos to see it, but who are their friends? The questions raised by trying to partially restrict content on a social network are endless.

It’d take far more time than it’s worth to really understand how content you’re sharing is restricted. Just like leaving the blinking “12:00” on the VCR, most of us will leave privacy on the default mode for years to come.

Gregory Galant is founder and CEO of Sawhorse Media, which makes cool sites like MuckRack and organizes the Shorty Awards. He also created and hosts Venture Voice, a podcast for and about entrepreneurs. This post was originally published on his blog, and is reprinted with permission.

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