Facebook Privacy, I Mean Facebook Piracy

Just a few months ago Google was taking heat for the privacy (or lack of) settings on it’s Google Buzz service. Google may be the elephant of the internet. We now have a new gorilla.

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Facebook, which now has more pages views per day than Google, is awash in criticism of it’s latest privacy settings and it’s new “like” button mechanics. Fourteen privacy groups have filed unfair trade complaints with the Federal Trade Commission. Senators are calling for hearings and tech writers are giving more than a fair share of thumbs downs. Class action lawsuites are also being filed.

When you hit the “like” button, all your privacy is gone. Facebook has turned your profile page into your open online ID. The power of 400 million profiles. I guess Facebook could not sell your data as profitably if it were to be kept private. In the past year Facebook settings went from private options, to public by default, to now a totally public profile. Yup, public for all the internet to see, your location, employment, reading preferences,  school name, favorite music, pictures, etc. It all ties into CNN, Yelp, Pandora, Microsoft, and hundreds of other sites. About the only thing protected is your email address and passwords. The bottom line is that is is probably erroneous to call Facebook’s  settings “privacy” settings. They seem more like “public social” open internet settings.

Facebook could have used a system with some remaining privacy options. They could have allowed a opt-in or had settings that were not maddening to figure out. They wanted this battle and wanted it now. Facebook has changed the rules of privacy and have not given it’s users a choice. They have critical mass and they know most people will not dump their account. They know users will click on that “like” button and not think about privacy of their profile.  People are lazy by nature. Many of us do not like switching software, social networks, and browsers. It takes time. Look at the amount of people still using AOL email because AOL would not let you export your address book. AOL did not want you to leave it’s subscription domain; Facebook just wants everyone outed and to sell your data to advertisers. They are confident in not becoming another MySpace.

Maybe Facebook execs have this wrong. Maybe the erosion of privacy is a concern of social network users. Maybe a competitor will emerge and challenge Facebook’s  dominance.

There is some strange privacy puzzle here. Most of us want control over our privacy and settings. When given control, most of us will ignore the options and just leave them open for all to see. This is especially true if the control panel is complicated or we are made to think setting tighter controls will keep us from participating in some new form of perceived  internet democracy. Thus, a small PR snafu for Facebook, some sizable legal fees, and probably a negligible loss of users. On to 500 million open profile (not so privacy hungry) users.

More about this post:

Putting Facebook On Privacy Lockdown from (SFGate.com)

The Anti-Facebook (from ReadWriteWeb)

Facebook Gone Rogue (from Wired)

Facebook Privacy Graphic: A Bewildering Tangle of Options  (from NY Times)

Does Privacy Even Matter (from Fast Company)

10 Reasons to Quit Facebook (from Gizmodo)

Tell All Generation Learns To Keep Things Offline (from NY Times)

Facebook Overplaying It’s Hand (from Calcanis.com)





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