What An Old Shoe Topic, Right?

Although I have my own opinion on this subject as does everyone else, and figure it’s best just to follow my own personal policy on it, sometimes someone in the tech media writes something that just irks me beyond what a dirty chai can heal.

Today, I came across this TechCrunch article Seriously, This Again? New, Aggressive Marketing From Microsoft Warns Gmail Users That Google Reads Their Email | TechCrunch written by Sarah Perez.

Although there are some valid points in regards to how Google uses automated processes and it’s special sauce of algorithms to scan emails, which is different than say human “Cheeto encrusted fingers” pilfering through one’s inbox, there were some statements that are a disservice to the greater online community when it comes to privacy.

Years later, as it turned out, it seems no one cares that much about their privacy.

Really? Seriously?!

But on a grander scale – the one involving millions, sometimes billions, of user accounts, it’s obvious that a large majority of people got over their Gmail privacy concerns – and their Facebook concerns, for that matter. Over a billion people let Facebook sell their data to advertisers today, for example. Sarah Perez

What concerns me is not the main topic about Google being trusted by many to handle their emails or Microsoft’s attack on Google.

When the tech media equates usage of a service to users not caring about privacy, there’s something cross-wired in the argument though.

It’s a downright false argument in fact.

Privacy? Yes, We Care

As a former product manager, and one working very closely with email, I know that the conclusions which the tech media often reaches, can be outright misleading and off the mark.

Yes, on a grand scale, people use Gmail and Facebook. Even if Gmail may have a better privacy rep than say Facebook, usage of any service does not imply that users automatically accept what’s happening. One has to look deeper at the usage patterns.

I’m going to use myself as one small data blip on a usage chart.

I use Facebook (personally) less these days. Perhaps, I was one of those 61% of Facebook users from Pew’s recent study who have taken a break in the past. I’d probably fall in that 4% citing Privacy as a reason. Note: Professionally, I use it still, but at a very minimum. My personal Profile, gets very little attention, even today.

Although 21% cited being too busy or not having time for it, I tend to believe that our decreasing usage stems from many factors that perhaps makes Facebook a little less of a solution for a problem and viewed more as a time sink. When a brand name accumulates enough negative sentiment, the potential for future negative sentiment grows from reasons in the past that get lumped together.

Whether the numbers reflect it or not on the surface, privacy is still a huge concern. Average users are becoming better trained to recognize the issues at stake. Also, companies are not adding privacy options just out of good will.

But today, what I post on Facebook personally, is very deliberate and thought out. Some features, such as Messenger, I outright refuse to use because of “features” that are privacy concerns.

This is not just a Facebook rant. It’s a statement against that part of the tech media which tries to promote the idea that just because folks use a service, privacy is less of a concern. Sorry, no way, it doesn’t add up.

One of the reasons I haven’t fully embraced G+ today is because of it’s attempt to make identity such a big issue. Google handles privacy pretty well overall, but when it takes deliberate action to force users to use their real name and reward verified identities, it’s taking a stab at online privacy. Yes, I use G+, but my usage pattern will indicate that my posted content is trivial and probably not very personal – maybe even a little less valuable for targeted ad units.

So Sarah Perez, my usage of Google’s services or Facebook does not mean:

The real reason why people don’t seem to be taking extra precautions to keep companies away from their personal data, whether Google, Facebook or otherwise is because the actual fallout just isn’t there. Sarah Perez

There is fallout. Sometimes it’s called taking a break. Sometimes concerns get lumped into other reasons for using something less. Sometimes it’s using a service but in a very limited way. It’s called revised usage patterns and a willingness to explore other options when they become available.

Sometimes, tech industry people forget that their views are often biased and influenced by other tech industry folks.

In the real world, we are still concerned about privacy and ask that companies not take small world views of usage patterns. That would be the real horror.

Sometimes old shoes get worn and scuffed because others keep stepping on them.

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