Archive for May 2010


May 24, 2010

Currently, there is an outcry over privacy in Facebook. Some minor celebrities have announced that they’re quitting Facebook over privacy. And as evidence that Facebook has gone mainstream, traditional media is running stories on how to protect your privacy in Facebook.

Even today, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted an apology for the confusing privacy settings, without addressing the fundamental privacy issues.

One apologist on TechCrunch wrote that one should not share any private information in Facebook. That’s not bad advice, but it doesn’t exonerate Facebook.

Through most of the internet, it’s clear what information is private and what is public. If you write a blog, it’s public. On Twitter, all posts are global unless you ‘protect’ your account. In email from your home computer, the information is mostly private (though it’s important to avoid sensitive information like passwords).

Facebook promotes itself as the premier site to build a ‘social network’. Share your stories and pictures. Reconnect with distant friends and family. In principle, these should be people you would trust with private information, like when you’re away from home, your birthdate, or your pet’s name. (And personal information like that is frequently used for ‘security questions’ in personal banking and commerce).

The problem is that it’s difficult to keep up with the changing privacy policy from Facebook. They keep pushing the boundaries in order to attract more users and to win more advertising revenue. And each time, I wonder how much personal information they’re sharing with advertisers. I don’t like being ‘marketed to’, and I doubt you do, either. Joining a Farm or a Mafia War seems innocent enough, but I don’t want to be pestered about where I shop or what products I buy. Will my travel or shopping affect my insurance rates? What if a church group decides to badger me about my religious beliefs? Or a political candidate decides to hound me about some political comments?

I fully appreciate that Facebook is in business to make money. I’m willing to pay for a service that will help me connect with friends and family, if they wouldn’t sell out my personal details to the highest bidder. Exploiting my personal relationships is a sleazy move.

I have never liked Facebook, but I reluctantly joined because many of my friends and family participate. I’m hoping for an alternative that doesn’t pay lip-service to privacy – that doesn’t think my personal information is just another bit of marketing data. And hopefully my family and friends will join me so that we can keep the personal conversations private.