Privacy is Important

“You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” – Scott McNealy, former CEO of Sun Microsystems.

When I was invited to join Sepia Labs and create the Android version of Glassboard, I stressed that privacy was the key to our success. Companies like Facebook and Google are trying to convince millions of us that we can trust them with our privacy, but millions of us remain unconvinced.

These companies make the majority of their revenue from advertising, and advertisers are willing to pay more when they know exactly who their ads will be shown to. We’re expected to trust our private conversations with companies that don’t benefit from keeping our conversations private. Red flag, anyone?

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” – Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman and former CEO.

It’s not that we fear saying things that we don’t want anyone to know, it’s that we fear saying something without knowing who will hear it.

We want to be able to say something online without fearing that a future employer may see it and count it against us. We want to complain about the country we live in without fear of reprisal. We want to share pictures of our kids without wondering who else will see them. We want to share with only the people we choose to share with.

When we know a conversation is private, we’re more willing to share ourselves. It feels good to share who we are, to open up to the people we trust. When we don’t know who will hear us, we censor ourselves and hide the rough edges of who we are. But those rough edges help define us. It’s impossible to feel truly loved if you have to hide parts of who you are.

It’s time for us to say, “No, I won’t get over it. Privacy is important, and I won’t give it up.” Today’s software developers need to look at privacy the same way they’ve learned to look at security: it’s not an add-on or a feature that customers have to turn on, it’s something built-in that shouldn’t be turned off.

I hope more companies follow our lead and take the same approach to privacy that Glassboard has. I think the web is headed in the wrong direction, and the more that participate in trying to change that direction, the more likely it is to change.

5 thoughts on “Privacy is Important

  1. You are right. Conversations have context and what I am comfortable telling my family, work colleagues or doctor may not mean I am happy telling the whole world the same thing. And just because I am using the internet as the communication medium doesn’t change that, or else email would need no password.

  2. Great post Nick. I agree with you fully.
    What do you think of the argument that we pay with our privacy for using otherwise free services like Gmail, Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, etc.?

  3. @Dave Nice to see a fellow Tennessean here! It’s true that we pay for some free services with our privacy, but I think more often we’re actually paying with our attention data (search this blog for “attention” and you’ll find several posts on the subject).

  4. I agree. In every project development, privacy is very essential and a priority to protect the team of developers and the project as well.

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