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Facebook, Google, and Online Privacy

Interviewee: Jeff Jarvis, Associate Professor, CUNY School of Journalism
Interviewer: Hagit Ariav, CFR.org
May 28, 2010

Internet giants Facebook and Google have recently announced revisions to their privacy practices in response to a backlash that triggered talk in some countries of new regulatory action. Media expert Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do?, calls the latest Facebook and Google revisions "major steps." But he cautions that the "privacy mania" over their policies "is making us lose sight of the benefits of publicness."

Jarvis does see a role for regulators in overseeing privacy on the Internet. However, he warns, "It would be very dangerous to start to assume that government can regulate the Internet all around because, let's remember that there are governments like those in China and Iran and North Korea that would regulate the Internet quite differently, and we could end up having to live by the lowest common denominator."

Addressing what appears to be the growing indispensable nature of some of the largest Internet media entities, Jarvis agrees with Google's claim that there are alternatives for every service the company provides. But he says, "Facebook, on the other hand, is pretty much the sole owner, and that's the issue, of our social graph." For the time being, Jarvis says, "we're a bit more stuck with Facebook, and right now with Twitter, than we are with Google."

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