Gmail Outrage Proves Privacy Is the Cost of Convenience

by Adam Benjamin | August 19, 2013 1:06 pm

Search engine giant Google (GOOG[1]) made headlines last week thanks to five words:

“… no legitimate expectation of privacy.”

Even ignoring the fact that the quote — concerning those who email Gmail users — was ripped out of context, the incident adds to the growing list of privacy concerns in an increasingly digital world.

But for all their frequency, the concerns tend to be short-lived. An uproar caused today — whether about Google, Facebook (FB[2]), Apple (AAPL[3]) or the NSA — will die down tomorrow. Why? Because more people are increasingly valuing convenience over privacy:

But for all the potential risk, people still use these kinds of websites and applications all the time. Why? Because it’s convenient. Many people like to look up local restaurant reviews on your phone, and it’s (apparently) fun to show your friends where you are throughout the day.

And to some extent, filling out your hometown on an online form or posting personal photos on the Internet, then expecting that data to only go where you want — even if you click the right privacy settings[12] — is just naïve, given what we know today.

A lack of privacy is simply the cost of interacting on the web — it wouldn’t change much if you migrated from Facebook to Twitter or Google+. Most users seem perfectly happy to pay that cost to some extent or another, but should they be?

As with most things, that should be a personal decision. But no matter what, users need to be informed before making that decision.

Privacy protection isn’t impossible. But consumers should know that it’s going to take more than a little bit of effort … and it’s not going to be convenient.

Adam Benjamin is an Assistant Editor of InvestorPlace. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

Endnotes:
  1. GOOG: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=GOOG
  2. FB: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=FB
  3. AAPL: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=AAPL
  4. YHOO: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=YHOO
  5. AOL: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=AOL
  6. MSFT: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=MSFT
  7. “the ultimate stalker search engine.”: http://gizmodo.com/5986399/how-to-lock-down-your-facebook-privacy-before-graph-search-strikes
  8. a recent ReadWrite article: http://readwrite.com/2013/05/02/apples-privacy-record-sucks-heres-why-you-should-care#awesm=~oeYIZqRO1BEDGZ
  9. track your movement through their stores: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/07/technology-turns-to-tracking-people-offline/?_r=2
  10. HD: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=HD
  11. Girls Around Me: http://www.techhive.com/article/252973/online_oversharing_can_be_dangerous.html
  12. even if you click the right privacy settings: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2013/07/tip-smartphone-camera-gps/

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