Google vs. Facebook: Which Can You Trust?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post about how MySpace's assets -- including some 50 million-odd personal profiles -- were purchased by Specific Media, an online ad firm, and the privacy implications of that.

Since then, some smart folks have pointed out to me that -- hey, looky -- Google is also an advertising company. And when you come right down to it, so is Facebook. That's certainly what has produced the vast majority of FB's revenues so far.

So can any of them be trusted?

Former TV newsman Issac "Ike" Pigott asked a similar question this morning on his Posterous audio blog:

Am I wrong for continuing to think that there's humor in the fact that so many people are flocking to Google+ because they just don't trust Facebook with all their private information? These are the same people who've had gmail accounts for six or seven years, have racked up about five or six gigabytes of data that they leave on Google servers, [including] emails they would not want the rest of the world to know about. And [they] trust Google with all that but [they] won't trust Facebook with it."

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Artwork: Chip Taylor
An interesting thought. First, though, let's examine the premise of this question. I'm not convinced people are abandoning Facebook for Google+. I think they're just adding Google+ to their ever growing list of social media sites.

[See also: Groupon wants your soul -- and also your location data. ]

In fact, based on my short experience with G+ and the friend/follower notifications that have come pouring into my inbox, the people who are flocking to G+ are the same ones who flocked to Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, Buzz, Foursquare, Groupon, blah blah blah -- I mean the same friggin people. It's the Social Media Mafia; Robert Scoble and the Scoblettes. They're all over G+ they way they were all over all of those other services.

Remember in high school, when you tried to start a club for all the cool kids but the dorks kept showing up instead? It's like that.

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Anyway, I digress. The question really is, should you trust Google more than Facebook? Stupidly, in my heart of hearts (if not my brain of brains) I do trust Google more than Facebook. And I think there are a few reasons why.

1. "Don't be evil." Yeah, I know. But it was a ballsy thing to put out there, and people are constantly holding Google's feet to the fire over it. It's also the fact that when Google screws up, especially in the area of privacy, it apologizes almost immediately and tries to correct it. Unlike (ahem) certain social media companies, they don't sit there defiantly telling us we're all wrong or hide in their rooms waiting for people to stop complaining.

2. The ever-changing moods of Facebook's privacy policies. It's hard to trust somebody when you sign a contract with them, only to have them continually using Wite-Out TM to erase the bits they don't like and rewriting them to their advantage. Google doesn't generally do that.

3. Mark Zuckerberg. He looks like the kid who left a flaming bag of dog doo on your front stoop and now just denies, denies, denies it. The history of how Facebook came to be, and Zucky's other adventures borrowing other people's ideas, don't help. Uncle Eric, while just a teensy bit creepy, always felt more credible to me.

I'm not saying you should trust Google more -- in many ways, Google is a bigger threat to your privacy than Facebook, because it has access to far more than just the information you've shared with it. I'm just saying I do.

I might be terribly wrong about that. I hope not.

ITworld TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan is really tired of cleaning up flaming bags of poo (damn you, Zuckerberg). Visit his eHumor site eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter: @tynan_on_tech.

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