Nothing Crap About Educating People

So, earlier this month, Facebook revealed that laptops belonging to its staff had been infected by malware. Whilst Facebook was adamant that no user data had been compromised, a large number of publications saw fit to cover the story. Which is unsurprising and, I would argue, entirely reasonable.

After all, it’s one of a large number of hacking stories recently, suggesting that we should all be considering what data we share with companies, and what sort of security systems they use to protect it. Add to that the fact that Facebook holds data, on over 1 billion people, that could easily be used by cyber-criminals (birth-dates, names of friends, family & spouses – all things that are regularly used in online banking) and it seems reasonable to at least consider the implications.

Not if you’re Jeff Jarvis it doesn’t. Invited on to a late night slot on BBC News, he decided to dismiss the relevance of the story completely, and instead insist that the BBC were engaged in creating techno=panic. Yes, the BBC. The same company that arguably did more than almost any company on earth to promote home-computing, and which has consistently been a leading-edge innovator in its use of the web to connect with its audience.

Now Jeff Jarvis is undoubtedly an intelligent, succesful and influential man. But that doesn’t mean that he’s always right. In fact his argument that because anything you put on Facebook is going to end up public anyway means that you don’t really have any justification in worrying about data compromises, seems entirely wrong to me. It is exactly because so many people don’t realise this fact, that people like him should be doing more to highlight the dangers, as well as the positives, of technology.

Some have suggested that Jarvis’s almost missionary zeal for the web and its new giants, is almost sinister. Others merely highlight how open to ridicule it is.

Either way, I think that those who try to suggest that his CV means he should be free from criticism are entirely wrong. Apart from anything else, I can’t help thinking that anyone who had a hand in the creation of Entertainment Weekly (current top story – 25 sexiest TV scenes: Your picks!) isn’t really best placed to criticise anyone else on the quality of their journalism.

What’s for sure is that whatever the rights and wrongs of Jarvis’ arguments (and I think  I’ve highlighted why they’re more wrong than right), he lost pretty much any moral high ground he might have thought he had when he followed his interview with a truly epic prima donna style rant, and then resorted to taking comfort in the fact that he was praised by this man.

When Nero’s on your side, you’ve lost.

Photo of Jeff Jarvis explaining why there’s nothing to worry about when your whole life could be hacked because a developer in California looks at a dodgy website by Re: Publica 2012 on flickr

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