More specifically – what is it about Facebook and privacy that has caused such a controversy?
In the simplest of terms, it’s the constant attack on user-control (notice I didn’t say “lack of”, though I almost did) and their incessant need for world domination at the expense of user private data.
I don’t think I will ever get the words of Mark Zuckerberg, Founder & CEO, out of my head from recent interviews during and following the F8 Developer Conference. Without repeating verbatim what he said, it’s what I got out of it that really raised the red flag.
According to Mr. Zuckerberg, the world is becoming more social and they basically want to make it easier for users to do just that – be social.
OK, I get the ease of socialiability. What I don’t get is how they can justify that because people are transiently “more social” it’s ok then to assume that certain bits of information are worthy to be released without user consent.
Take for instance the Open Graph format. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you should be aware that sites like CNN have begun to roll out a feature that will allow you to connect to Facebook via a “like” button, which basically means if you “like” a certain article and you press that button, it will post to your wall.
On the one hand I like the feature. On the other, I might be one of the few and far between but, I kinda miss acknowledging that I like an article with say… 5 stars. Maybe I don’t want it to show up on a feed of some sort and I just want to let CNN know that I appreciate the report, the information, the story, etc.
In another example, Facebook is working with some third-party developers in combining usability that will feature an interesting set of notifications, like which of your friends visited a restaurant recently (Yelp). What if I don’t want my friends to know that I went to a particular restaurant? Will they have a built-in to it’s application that allows me to opt-out if I don’t want that information blasted everywhere? Somehow I highly doubt it. Quite frankly, I think for Facebook it’s all about what they seem to think the majority of the public wants.
I have news for Facebook. There are plenty of Facebook users that DON’T want any of this, that actually want to control their own settings – ALL of them.
The way I see it, Zuckerberg and his team are so focused on revenue generation that they don’t care that many social users prefer to control their own destinies (so to speak), as much as they can anyway.
I’m no dummy. I get that whatever you put out there is never again private no matter how much privacy control there is. All of our data is stored somehow somewhere. The thing that really irks me is that *I* want to be the one in charge of (at least providing some kind of privacy to) whatever data I put out there, if for any reason other than to make it that much harder to find it. That’s not me saying that I have anything to hide; because I don’t! Rather, it’s me saying, it’s an issue of control. I should be able to control my own privacy. Period.
I hear cries of “Big Brother is watching.” What scares me is that I already know that “he” is. Regardless, let’s not make it that much easier for the general public to as well.
I do have to give Facebook some credit. They did listen to user complaints regarding default public settings in that now you CAN control who can see your friends lists, tags, & connections, not to mention what information you allow applications available to the public (or “Everyone”). I have since gone in and updated all of my Privacy Settings for personal information and applications. On the downside of this though, the default is “Everyone” for most of them. I wish it were “only friends” so that I wouldn’t have to go through ALL of the settings to change the ones I want “Everyone” to be in fact, everyone.
There are a vast number of reasons in addition to user control as to why I believe there should be user-controlled privacy settings. A few highlights:
- stalkers. Enough said.
- the practice of shady practices by companies aiming to attain financial retribution for outstanding debts (I know of two cases where “friends” of “friends” were contacted in order to find the original “friend” for nonpayment of outstanding bills. Yep, it’s true. And it’s so wrong!)
- cases of domestic abuse. Think about it, if a wife was being abused by a husband but the abuse began a year or so AFTER the wife opened a Facebook account (for the mere enjoyment of sharing personal stories with family) and that same wife found the need to uproot her life because of that, who’s to say the husband can’t still find out certain bits of information even if the wife “de-friended” the husband or she went so far as to delete her whole profile? Again, that’s just wrong.
There are more examples but once again, it all comes down to user control.
Now, if you happen to be one of those folks that just don’t care, all the power to you! However, for the rest of us, even you would understand that we do have a case for privacy (I hope.). To each his/her own, right?
I recently toyed with the idea of deleting my Facebook account for many reasons but I’ll save that for another post. As of today, I keep it going and I’ve set it to as private as I want it to be. I continue to watch for recent developments from the folks at Facebook, reliable industry sources such as Mashable, and will make whatever changes I need to make accordingly.
Bottom line, I’m watching you Facebook. Don’t let me down, please.