Mark Zuckerberg being swarmed by cameras is the perfect metaphor for online privacy

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April 11, 2018
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April 11, 2018

The iconic moment of Mark Zuckerberg's Senate hearing took place before he faced toothless questions from deeply misinformed senators. It happened when the Facebook boss approached his seat and found himself facing a wall of wide-angle camera lenses and photographers vying for his position, each trying to capture the most distilled image of a CEO under fire. Zuckerberg's personal space was eroded by the restless crowd, and he was treated less as a human and more as an object of fascination.
At that time, Mark Zuckerberg must have felt what it was like to be a user of his online platform. Every inch of his being was subjected to scrutiny, observation and recording for posterity. If he liked it, if he could give his consent in a meaningful way, or not.

The sustained buzz is tearing the audience chamber, while the photographers move away from Mark Zuckerberg- Joe Perticone (@JoePerticone) April 10, 2018

I felt a twinge of vicarious discomfort when looking from thousands of miles away, and it was a sense shared by many others. That translated into some sympathetic comments, some disbelief, but mostly a ton of sardonic analogy to Facebook's privacy practices.

Man, all those photographers swarming around waiting for Zuckerberg, it's as if he's living in a world where people no longer have a reasonable expectation of privacy. James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) April 10, 2018

When you get online today, protecting your privacy may seem as useless as dodging raindrops in a monsoon. If you want to communicate with friends, exchange work emails, buy or pay your bills, or do anything banal and basic online, you will end up with a browser full of tracking cookies. For the average person on the internet, giving informed consent to that tracking and snooping is not really possible, partly because, as Zuckerberg himself revealed yesterday, companies like Facebook and Google do not have real competition, so their users do not They have no viable alternatives to turn to.
The lens of the camera is a powerful symbol for voyeurism, and here, the CEO of a company accused of spying on citizens, or at least exploiting our expectations of privacy, was fired. Later, the same flock of photographers also broke Zuckerberg's notes, revealing that he was prepared for a much more difficult interrogation than he ended up receiving.
I do not like the inhumanity with which Mark Zuckerberg was treated in the preparation of his Senate hearing. Nor do I like that their notes, which presumably were intended to be private, will be published for everyone to see. But the head of Facebook was in a predefined context of public inquiry and transparency. One could argue that he should have expected little privacy, he knew that sitting in the chair would mean having cameras on him. Can the same be said of Facebook users who think they are sharing and interacting with their friends in private?


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