Having seen The Social Network at the weekend (engaging story, good dialogue, disappointingly one-dimensional characters), I read this thoughtful profile of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Mr Zuckerberg may be a visionary, an arrogant elitist, or a genius, but he has a surprisingly limited amount of personal ambition. Reading the interview – coloured a little by the portrait painted in the movie – Zuckerberg comes across as a guy playing a game, just to see what can be achieved, rather than aiming to perpetuate the idea of his own greatness. He is, as he says on his own Facebook page, just “trying to make the world a more open place”.
But the issue of privacy is a matter of some contention for Facebook’s 500 million users, and has caused all manner of online debate, ranging from the insightful to the digital equivalent of monkeys throwing faeces.
For those of us with an interest in broader media policy, this debate is notably absent from the current consensus about the rules governing traditional, mainstream media. I used to live opposite Amy Winehouse, and saw some of the grubbier examples of media intrusion on my doorstep on a daily basis. They weren’t pretty. But although some small groups do exist to campaign against press intrusion, the issue of privacy is the dog which has refused to bark in media policy over recent years. The received wisdom is that no Government wants to incur the wrath of the media by curbing its freedoms, and this case has been made in part around the edges of the News of the World phone-hacking allegations. But no DCMS Minister (of any party) has given the issue any serious consideration for decades.
Yet, online, the argument rages about privacy in social media. Whether this furore seeps across into the ‘dead tree’ media over the coming months and years is one of the biggest questions facing the sector. In the meantime, let’s hope the paparazzi aren’t reading Amy’s status updates.