In case you skipped through or missed the Facebook privacy update stuff earlier this month I’ll give you an update. In an effort to be more social, Facebook now considers the following, Your Name, Profile Picture, Gender, Current City, Networks, Friend List, and Pages you are a fan of to be “Publicly Available Information.” And by social, I do mean it *is* easier now for people who might want to friend you to do so. However, it also gives advertisers and others access to more of your information to target their ads. They no longer have to “ask” for this “privileged information,” it’s just out there for everyone to see.
Some of the information, like your name, profile picture, and current city is actually less invasive than having your name, number and street address in a public phone book. But the rest of them are things you used to have a degree of control over. I reckon most users felt ok with their circle of friends knowing that they’re a member “I’ve partied in a cornfield” but I don’t think they were planning on sharing it with everyone on Facebook, and beyond (make no mistake, it’s available to a lot of people/companies now)
Users gave this information to Facebook with a respectable degree of confidence that they got to decide who had access to it. You knew that if you joined “My hometown can out drink your hometown!” your friends might see it. But not, say, your employer whom you’ve specifically not friended because they have no business knowing who your friends are, what pages you like or what things/ideas you personally associate yourself with. Now, theoretically, everyone can get access to this information, it’s “publicly available.”
The reason Facebook has pulled this bait and switch on it’s users is because it’s actually part of their business model. Get users to input trusted information, use that information in combination with information gathered from their friends to sell targeted advertising, Profit. Letting you keep your information to your self, if you so chose, was costing Facebook money they could have been bringing in from more specifically and more easily targeted ads. By labeling this information “public” and completely removing your control from the loop, Facebook has made it easier to make more valuable associations and thus make more money. All without caring what your intent was in having a Facebook profile in the first place.
Personally, I keep my Facebook account to keep occasional tabs on friends, and increasingly, family (I just friended 3 aunts in 2 days, and they all found me.) I didn’t ask for, nor do I want, anyone outside of the people I’ve accepted as friends to know which groups i’m in or pages i’m a fan of. I didn’t join those groups or friend people for that information to be in the public record. This is in contrast to my website, blog or Twitter, for example, where from day 1 I had the expectation that every character I typed would be in the wide open for a lot of people to see. I expected the exact opposite from Facebook and am very disappointed.
What Facebook should have done is made the control of these settings more granular, not removed it completely. I really like the new privacy control over the status updates, where you can select whom you’d like to share each individual post with. They should have extended this control to your friends list, groups, and pages. If I have a Facebook account and I really don’t want you to use my information (like it was in the past!) I should be able to make that decision for myself.
If you look, not even that hard, you can find a lot of information about me on the internet. Information that in large part, I have put there with the intention that it was going to be on the open internet. I’m really not afraid of having my name around the internet, what i’m upset about is the means by which Facebook has come to this point with the private information of millions of people.
For you, Facebook might really be the only “web presence” you have and you may have considered it your little corner of the internet, accessible only to the people you choose. Well, it’s increasingly becoming less and less of your corner and more and more of Facebook’s file on you.
I say something because apparently Facebook cares about what their users think, and I want it to be a better experience for all of its users. But when they have the authority to amend their terms (and rightly so) without notifying you or requiring any action on your part and then suddenly redefining how they handle your information it makes me think they really are barely listening at all.
End Rant. Care to comment? I’d like your opinion if you have one, even it it’s “meh, who cares.”
PS Don’t ever say anything sarcastic or vent on Facebook. The world might react, and take off your head.