I am a big believer in Transparency. So big in fact, that we have developed our own definition at CSG: "We tell the other party everything we would want to know if we were them." The other party we refer to could be employees, customers, partners, and vendors. There are some people however that don't gain admittance to the "other party" group. Certainly competitors would not obtain this status. In fact, we are quite careful not to expose information about our company to competitors.
Both Mark Zuckerberg and Eric Schmidt have declared that the only people not interested in transparency are those with some bad behavior to hide. This is preposterous. Here are the first 10 things I can think of that I would not want Facebook or Google to know about me with the reasons:
- Anything that would aid someone trying to steal my identity: Surely the Social Security number is top on this list, but also credit card numbers, passport number, date and place of birth, mothers maiden name, drivers license number, bank account numbers. Identity theft is big business and very harmful to its victims. I think anything on my business card is fair game.
- Anything that would aid other criminal behavior with me as the victim: The number one thing here is location. There is a very real threat of burglary and even peaserobme.com has stopped contributing to the problem. In many countries kidnapping is a threat. So I don't want Google or Facebook to know where I am, what I am doing, my travel dates, or information about assets people may want to steal (VIN number on my car...).
- Anything that would aid criminal behavior with my friends as victims: Location is big here too. If I indicate my location and who I am with -- I also indicate their location. Being male and 200 pounds, I really don't worry that much about being attacked. But in most parts of our country it is not advisable for a female to walk to her car alone at night. I would not want to do anything that would broadcast such a walk to persons with criminal intentions. Many tech savvy women around the world do not participate in location based services in real time -- for this very reason. (they make a habit of checking in on FourSquare well after they have already left)
- Anything I don't Want the Government to Know: Our country was built on a deep suspicion of the government and a belief in the right to privacy. I do not have to have illegal or immoral intent to want privacy from my government.
- Anything about sensitive business relationships: Managing relationships is hard work and there are many opportunities for misunderstandings. I would not want my performance reviews, my salary, or the terms and conditions of other business dealings I have with my employer shared on the internet. Facebook hires people from Google every day -- but is not posting on Facebook who they are pursuing or what they are offering to pay.
- Future business deals: In business we often engage in conversations about potential future relationships. When interviewing candidates for a job, we talk to more than one person. When hiring a new vendor, we talk to more than one. When engaging with partners or pursuing new customers we are constantly in conversations in parallel. The content of those conversations, or even who the parties are, should not be shared with Facebook or Google. There is nothing unethical about interviewing for a job or requesting a salary of a certain amount.
- Intellectual Property or Business Know How: Google does not share its page ranking algorithm, or the innovations it has developed in running large datacenters. Facebook does not share how it extracts from the Facebook stream the information it sells to advertisers.
- My Deepest Fears: If I wake up in the middle of the night with a pain in my abdomen and I start doing searches about cancer -- I don't want Google or Facebook to know. Particularly when in the morning it turns out to be indigestion.
- My Biggest Conflicts: If I get sideways with my best friend or my spouse, I want time to work it out before the whole world knows.
- My Dreams: Talking pie in the sky with my friends is great fun. Is there something evil in wanting to keep my dreams close to my vest? I may want to climb Mt. Everest, bring education to Afghanistan, or start a company that makes a nickel every time someone clicks on something, and not wanting to broadcast it indicates nothing unsavory.
There are many people who proclaim that the march to transparency is inevitable and that we should not resist. Some even proclaim to live their own lives in public. I suspect neither those people, or Eric Schmidt, or Mark Zuckerberg would have a very different list than this.