Privacy is not dead in the era of online social networking. It just needs careful curation. That was the message Saturday from Danah Boyd, a social-media expert who works for Microsoft Research and who was Saturday's keynote speaker at the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) festival here.
Boyd is one of the original social-media researchers, having spent years studying the dynamics of how systems like MySpace and Facebook impact teens and youth culture, and how that culture is impacting such services. But she also has demonstrated over the years a keen sense of how people across all age groups use social networks, and her talk touched on many different communities.

To begin with, she said, privacy is by no means dead. "People care very much about privacy, no matter how old they are," Boyd said. "The challenge is that what privacy means may not be what you think...Fundamentally, it's about having control over how information flows...When people feel they don't have control over their environment or their setting, they feel as though their privacy has been violated. And they cry foul."

To begin with, Boyd used the recent Google Buzz debacle as an example of how people of all stripes demonstrated that they care deeply about their privacy. She explained that while there was nothing technically wrong with the way Google's new social-networking system integrated with Gmail, it nonetheless resulted in a PR nightmare for the search giant because "they made nontechnical mistakes that ended up in social disruption."

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