Over the past week numerous sources pounded on a goliath-sized punching bag. It’s name, Facebook. The issue, privacy.
Let’s start with Wired. In a widely shared story, author Ryan Singel claims Facebook’s gone Palin. In other words, the social networking giant’s gone rogue.
Facebook used to be a place to share photos and thoughts with friends and family and maybe play a few stupid games that let you pretend you were a mafia don or a homesteader…
…Then Facebook decided to turn “your” profile page into your identity online — figuring, rightly, that there’s money and power in being the place where people define themselves. But to do that, the folks at Facebook had to make sure that the information you give it was public.
Singel proceeds with a litany of complaints: Facebook’s hired “Beltway privacy experts, it reneged on its privacy promises and made much of your profile information public by default.”
All that’s just in the first few paragraphs. There’s much, much more.
Gizmodo’s on the bandwagon as well, writing, “Facebook not only wants to know everything about you, and own that data, but to make it available to everybody.”
Privacy isn’t Gizmodo’s only concern. They list 10 good reasons people should quit Facebook, primary among them is a bait and switch ruse with users:
At the same time that they’re telling developers how to access your data with new APIs, they are relatively quiet about explaining the implications of that to members. What this amounts to is a bait-and-switch. Facebook gets you to share information that you might not otherwise share, and then they make it publicly available. Since they are in the business of monetizing information about you for advertising purposes, this amounts to tricking their users into giving advertisers information about themselves. This is why Facebook is so much worse than Twitter in this regard: Twitter has made only the simplest (and thus, more credible) privacy claims and their customers know up front that all their tweets are public. It’s also why the FTC is getting involved, and people are suing them (and winning).
Never one to let a good trend pass, The New York Times writes that younger people are growing more anxious about what private data sites like Facebook may have about them:
In the Pew study, to be released shortly, researchers interviewed 2,253 adults late last summer and found that people ages 18 to 29 were more apt to monitor privacy settings than older adults are, and they more often delete comments or remove their names from photos so they cannot be identified…
…But at the same time, companies like Facebook have a financial incentive to get friends to share as much as possible. That’s because the more personal the information that Facebook collects, the more valuable the site is to advertisers, who can mine it to serve up more targeted ads.
If Wired and Gizmodo make you want to leave Facebook, ReadWriteWeb explains just how difficult that may be to do. They also demonstrate the emotional techniques Facebook employs to stop those who self-impose social networking exile. Seems when you try to deactivate your account you’re shown images of friends you’ll no longer be able to interact with.
Can you believe that? How incredibly manipulative! And what claims to make. Facebook has undoubtedly made it easier to keep in touch with people than almost any other technology on the planet, but to say that leaving Facebook means your friends “will no longer be able to keep in touch with you” is just wrong. Facebook often says little things like this that read like it thinks it has a monopoly on human connection.
For a visual representation of Facebook’s ever changing privacy policies, check these infographics put together by Matt McKeon. Privacy settings for 2005 and 2010 are reproduced below. The blue wedges indicate with who and where your data flows.
Visit McKeon’s site to see these privacy evolution/devolution graphics in their full size.