What Google+ could teach us about privacy

A long time ago it was MySpace and maybe a bit of LiveJournal. Now the universe revolves around Facebook and Twitter, but there’s Foursquare and Yelp and Gowalla and any number of other ways people stay connected with their social networks. The release and positive early buzz of Google+ should remind us that social media will inevitably proliferate and fragment. In light of that, social networks in general should endeavor to make privacy options more self-evident to non-technical users.

One step towards this would be to adopt consistent phraseology and iconography to describe users’ privacy options for their content.

For a napkin example, imagine if a few networks would agree on verb choices and icon pairing conventions. “Post (globe),” “Share (stick figures)” and “Store (locker)” have similar but nuanced meanings, and make the distinction pretty clear: You’re sharing with the world, or with specific individuals / groups, or just place-shifting for your private use.

The point of this is, the whole default public / private distinction needn’t (and maybe shouldn’t) be a “default” in the first place. By giving users different verbs instead of a default, user education could be faster and more effective.

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