Sorry to come back to the Facebook privacy furore again.

The Snow In The Summer or So-So compares Facebook’s new features to the government’s identity register.

The argument here reminds me of Matthew Parris’s position on the general identity card debate (as distinct from the specific Labour Party identity database). In a nutshell, he’s argued that it is a moral wrong for the government to try and join up the disparate pieces of information it holds about a person.

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Government efficiency is not something of which I can truthfully say “the more the better”. It contributes to my security in the very deepest sense to know that in the last resort there are places I could hide. It contributes to my confidence in the future of liberty to know that no government will have at its disposal every weapon it needs to seek its enemies out.

First off, I should point out that I’ve never been particularly worried about the supposed privacy concerns surrounding ID cards. I am opposed to ID cards, but that’s for a variety of reasons: it would be too expensive, it wouldn’t be of any particular use, and because it involves computers the government would balls it up. Privacy may be an issue, but I frankly found a lot of the claims hysterical.

Anyway, does the analogy with Facebook’s new features hold water? Facebook’s new features make keeping tabs on your friends more efficient just as an identity database would make the government keeping tabs on you more efficient. So does this make Facebook’s features creepy?

In my opinion, no. The reason? You don’t add the government to your ‘friends’ list. With an identity register, people would be coerced into giving the state their private information. On Facebook, everything personal detail is given entirely voluntarily. Moreover, you can choose who can and can’t see it.

So it’s nothing like ID cards at all.

1 comment

  1. Will Terrel

    The government can in some sense add itself to your friends list through subpoena and/or other forceful means,