Canadian Entrepreneur Responds to Mark Zuckerberg’s Open Letter on User Privacy

On the afternoon of Thursday, March 13, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg penned an open letter blasting the government for being a “threat” to the internet.

“As the world becomes more complex and governments everywhere struggle, trust in the internet is more important today than ever,” explains the young billionaire. “To keep the internet strong, we need to keep it secure.”

However, Zuckerberg continues, “when our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.”

I’ve been so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the US government. The US government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst. I’ve called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future.

Stephen Ufford today responded to Zuckerberg’s letter with his own. The chief executive officer of Vancouver-based startup Trulioo says the Facebook founder’s open letter “brings to the forefront the underlying issue of consumer privacy as a whole on the web and shines a spotlight on other government attempts to control consumer data through regulatory and legislative means.”

“As public concern surrounding online consumer privacy grows, industry leaders and government have attempted to provide solutions to the problem—everything from self-regulation by corporations to privacy seal programs to new legislation have been instituted, and yet the problem still persists,” writes the Canadian entrepreneur. “The reason for this may be that in a global economy, this plethora of ‘solutions’ is not only ineffective but also stifling in their ability to further enable online interaction, communication and commerce across borders.”


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“A single solution on which industry, governments and consumers could all agree, would address this conflict,” he continues. “It would need to ensure that a unified framework would be adaptable no matter the geography, demographic or situation; a solution that would establish a single trust layer across the web and allow businesses, users and governments, no matter where they are in the world, to seamlessly engage online.”

Ufford believes the answer is a concept he calls “user as owner”: the idea that one’s data is one’s own, which dismantles the need for customized privacy policies, legislative solutions and privacy seal programs by shifting responsibility from business and government to the individual.

Facebook has been accused of a blithe stance on privacy many times.  However, I believe they have actually been instrumental in implementing a type of “User as Owner” expectation online that protects the rights and desires of the consumer. Due to Facebook’s adoption of a technology called OAuth, billions of people and millions of businesses are now familiar and comfortable with an “Allow” button placed in front of a user before personal information is released. For Facebook, this behavior has empowered their users, maintained privacy, and kept ridged, stifling regulation out of online interactions and commerce.

Trulioo, an online identity verification service, says its users’ data has long been protected with OAuth to ensure that the user has permitted the release of their data to websites or mobile apps using our service to verify them, says Ufford. “This requirement … has helped to usher in a new era of consumer privacy in our industry,” he affirms.