Here, Google friends, is the danger of the limit-sharing button...

On Facebook, the kerfuffle over privacy settings and defaults got such that people are locking down all their information ... on a service meant for sharing. So someone wants to be my friend. I go to their page to see who they are. Their page tells me the person doesn't trust me to know anything about him. Some damned friend he is! So Facebook, built on sharing, has become more a place of faceless people without identities. That's what happens when overcompensating.

Here, in only 72 hours, the disable-share button has shown its boobytraps. We know what is going to happen: Every time someone shares something that was supposed to be limited, Google and its technology will be blamed.

In fact, the issue isn't technology at all. If I tell you something, it is now public to that extent. What then happens to that information is not up to me but to you. That, I say in my book (Public Parts, coming Sept. 27 ... make that public!) is the ethic of privacy: the responsibility now rests on the shoulders of the recipient of the information.

If I read on G+ that you skipped work today and I share that, who's to blame, me or Google? Well, you say, that's why Google enabled sharing to be disabled. But I can turn around and tweet that information or blog it or email it to your boss or -- shocker -- not use technology at all but tell the boss when I see her on the street.

The problem is that Google+ is now giving the false comfort that sharing can be disabled. It can't be.

Oh, yes, I think it's a good thing to put conditions and caveats: when I tell people something confidential, I make sure to label that. I try to tell only people I trust with that confidence. But I also know that it is out of my control once I've said it. Isn't that why we are all careful not to see terribly sensitive things in email? And if we do and if that secret gets forwarded, should do/do we blame the technology or the person?

There's another issue with limiting sharing. +Vic Gundotra posted a link to a very nice Mercedes video in which he credits the car with saving him and others from an accident. The video is quite public. Vic shared it only with circles, not with the public. So Google+ wouldn't let me share it with the public. But, again, the video is already public. So the feature limited my abilities in what I think is an unintended way. If Vic didn't want this story out there, he would not have made the video at all, eh?

Bottom line: Be careful thinking that technology can change a human dynamic and behavior that has been in place long before technology: people talk; they share; they retell. Be careful blaming technology when that happens. And be careful mangling the technology out of the misguided belief that this is a bug and it can be fixed. It's reality.

One more thing: I also fear that if the notion of limiting sharing gets too widespread, the likes of Rupert Murdoch will demand a "limit sharing" button on all their content, in the belief that it protects their ownership. But, of course, that also limits my speech. I can't wholesale copy and redistribute Rupert's story. But I can talk about it and reference it; that is the essence of fair comment and free speech.

Sharing and resharing is a big deal. That's why I wrote a book about it. (Public Parts, coming Sept. 27: share that!(
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