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October 14, 2013

Zuckerberg: 'Do as I Say, Not as I Do'


Yeah, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has probably never (publicly) said that, but his recent actions show a disturbing truth to the possible reality.

Last week it was revealed by a story in the San Jose Mercury News (and subsequently picked up by the mainstream media nationwide), that Zuckerberg quietly purchased the four homes surrounding his own in the tony Palo Alto (CA) neighborhood where he and his wife live.

According to the story, Zuckerberg got wind of a plot by a developer who wanted to buy the house next to his, tear it down, build a McMansion, and then market it as “being next door to Mark Zuckerberg.”

Here’s the thing: If you’re going to do something as nefarious as that, Keep Yer Mouth Shut. Zuckerberg somehow found out, bought all four houses around his (for a LOT of money; one went for a reported $14 million), and then leased the homes back to their original owners.

Well played, young man; well played. (Full disclosure: I’m envious of the kid. He’s got youth, money and power in abundance. Of COURSE I’m jealous. But I’m also big enough to admit it.)


Image courtesy Shutterstock
With this move, Zuckerberg gets to maintain some sense of privacy and keep the neighbors he has. Sort of like a “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” kind of scenario. Hey, I like my current neighbors just fine, but if I had his kind of money, I might be tempted to do the same. Wouldn’t you?

But there was also some disturbing news on the Facebook front as well last week, which kind of left a sour taste. It seems that your personal privacy on Facebook is not nearly as “private” as we’ve all been led to believe.

This past week, Facebook said it was moving ahead with completing the removal of a privacy setting it started some time ago.

In a note on the Facebook Newsroom, Chief Privacy Officer Michael Richter said, “Last year we announced the removal of an old setting called ‘Who can look up your Timeline by name?’ along with new controls for managing content on Facebook. The search setting was removed last year for people who weren't using it. For the small percentage of people still using the setting, they will see reminders about it being removed in the coming weeks.

The company then goes into a lengthy explanation of privacy, settings and BlahBlahBlah. You can scroll though it all and figure out what you need to do to stay “private,” but MAN, it’s a hassle.

So on the one hand we have Mark Zuckerberg paying out a LOT of coin to surround himself on the homefront with people he knows and trusts. But for us mere mortals, we have to jump through some figurative hoops to maintain any sense of online privacy we have when using his product.

Oh, sure, no one’s holding a gun to anyone’s head; we can close out our Facebook account any time we want. But I like being able to see my nieces and nephews, old friends and colleagues, and just regular acquaintances as they go about their lives. I assume they like my regular updates as well.

But I DON’T want some Creepazoid watching me, looking me up or otherwise knowing what I’m up to. Call me paranoid (I am), but I only want to be connected to those I’ve allowed to connect with me.

We talk about Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC) and other nascent technologies in our office all the time. I’ve often stated that I would pay extra for a “Facebook Plus” where I could strictly control my contacts, and never get hit by ads.

If Mark Zuckerberg wants to continue buying more houses on his block, that might be one way to increase his company’s bottom line, and allow him to become the real estate mogul he seems to want to be

But Mark, come on; the privacy thing: Re-think that, willya? You had the wherewithal to do something when your personal privacy was threatened. How about throwing a bone to the rest of us?




Edited by Stefania Viscusi


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