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When Decency Fails Privacy
By: Jessica Cherok
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“It’s not about privacy settings. It’s about human decency.”

At least it is according to Randi Zuckerberg’s tweet responding to a friend of her younger sister posting a Zuckerberg family photo. The sister’s friend, Callie Schweitzer, apparently is not Facebook friends with Randi Zuckerberg, but was able to see — thus copy and tweet — the photo because Randi’s privacy settings allowed for “Friends of Friends” viewing.

Randi Zuckerberg felt violated. And rightfully so.

Except no one really seems to feel all that badly for the sister of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg because, well — duh. It’s Facebook and this kind of thing happens all the time.

If you look at your Facebook page as an extension of your personal space, then it makes sense you would feel violated if someone came in and took something without your permission. Think of it as your home. You invite your friends over because you know you can trust them. Your friends aren’t going to take something from your home and put it on display for everyone to see.

But friends of friends? Those people are total strangers to you. They may receive a little credibility by proxy, but you could hardly vouch for them as pillars of human decency.

That, however, is what makes this incident so perplexing. Shouldn’t Mark Zuckerberg’s own sister know better?

Yes and no.

If Randi Zuckerberg wanted make sure the photo remained private, she should have erred on the side of uber-cautious, and limited the photo sharing to only her friends. It’s the same reason we don’t leave our medications laying out when hosting a dinner party. You might tell your friends about taking antidepressants, but the +1 they brought doesn’t need to know.

But Schweitzer crossed the line. Keeping with the dinner party scenario, she basically riffled through the medicine cabinet and publicly announced the contents. Whether Schweitzer was being malicious in tweeting the photo is unclear, but regardless of intent it was still a pretty crappy thing to do.

So crappy she is now being very publicly lambasted for her lack of decency. Perhaps this should be the new litmus test for whether or not something should be posted — would Randi Zuckerberg fuss at you?

While Randi Zuckerberg as the new mascot for human decency in social media is amusing, it isn’t likely to happen. Still, you can apply the sentiment to your behavior and if you find yourself in doubt, then it probably wouldn’t make Randi happy.

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About the Author
Jessica Cherok is an advocate for online privacy, campaigning for ethical data practices and the protection of personal privacy.
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