For those who have been following the debate on online privacy, this letter should come as no surprise—countless advocacy groups have criticized companies like Facebook and Google for what they see as the erosion of user privacy online. However, contrary to what critics may say, the latest offerings from companies like Facebook and Google do not herald the end of privacy as we know it on the Internet. Instead, it reflects the natural evolution of online applications as they increasingly make use of user data to offer more personalized products and services and find ways to monetize an otherwise free service. Yet unfortunately privacy fundamentalists (e.g., those individuals and organizations who place the protection of privacy above all else, refusing to see it as one value competing against others) continue to generate headlines by raising objections to the efforts of these companies by arguing that they “violate user expectations” and “diminish user privacy.”
There are two different questions central to this debate: first, should Facebook be able to use private information to deliver products and services to its customers; and second, should any company be able to do this?
Yet even if you accept the premise that consumers had an expectation of privacy, the last few years of debate over online privacy should make it clear to even the most casual user that this is no longer true. Many Internet companies clearly intend to continue to find innovative ways to use personal data to deliver products and services to their customers. While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg may or may not “believe in privacy”, it is clear that Faceboo