Facebook’s move ain’t about changes in privacy norms

When I learned that Mark Zuckerberg effectively argued that ‘the age of privacy is over’ (read: ReadWriteWeb), I wanted to scream. Actually, I did. And still am. The logic goes something like this:

  • People I knew didn’t used to like to be public.
  • Now “everyone” is being public.
  • Ergo, privacy is dead.

This isn’t new. This is the exact same logic that made me want to scream a decade ago when folks used David Brin to justify a transparent society. Privacy is dead, get over it. Right? Wrong!

Privacy isn’t a technological binary that you turn off and on. Privacy is about having control of a situation. It’s about controlling what information flows where and adjusting measures of trust when things flow in unexpected ways. It’s about creating certainty so that we can act appropriately. People still care about privacy because they care about control. Sure, many teens repeatedly tell me “public by default, private when necessary” but this doesn’t suggest that privacy is declining; it suggests that publicity has value and, more importantly, that folks are very conscious about when something is private and want it to remain so. When the default is private, you have to think about making something public. When the default is public, you become very aware of privacy. And thus, I would suspect, people are more conscious of privacy now than ever. Because not everyone wants to share everything to everyone else all the time.

Let’s take this scenario for a moment. Bob trust Alice. Bob tells Alice something that he doesn’t want anyone else to know and he tells her not to tell anyone. Alice tells everyone at school because she believes she can gain social stature from it. Bob is hurt and embarrassed. His trust in Alice diminishes. Bob now has two choices. He can break up with Alice, tell the world that Alice is evil, and be perpetually horribly hurt. Or he can take what he learned and manipulate Alice. Next time something bugs him, he’ll tell Alice precisely because he wants everyone to know. And if he wants to guarantee that it’ll spread, he’ll tell her not to tell anyone.

Facebook isn’t in the business of protecting Bob. Facebook is in the business of becoming Alice. Facebook is perfectly content to break Bob’s trust because it knows that Bob can’t totally run away from it. They’re still stuck in the same school together. But, more importantly, Facebook *WANTS* Bob to twist Facebook around and tell it stuff that it’ll spread to everyone. And it’s fine if Bob stops telling Facebook the most intimate stuff, as long as Bob keeps telling Facebook stuff that it can use to gain social stature.

Why? No one makes money off of creating private communities in an era of “free.” It’s in Facebook’s economic interest to force people into being public, even if a few people break up with Facebook in the process. Of course, it’s in Facebook’s interest to maintain some semblance of trust, some appearance of being a trustworthy enterprise. I mean, if they were total bastards, they would’ve just turned everyone’s content public automatically without asking. Instead, they asked in a way that no one would ever figure out what’s going on and voila, lots of folks are producing content that is more public than they even realize. Maybe then they’ll get used to it and accept it, right? Worked with the newsfeed, right? Of course, some legal folks got in the way and now they can’t be that forceful about making people public but, guess what, I can see a lot of people’s content out there who I’m pretty certain don’t think that I can.

Public-ness has always been a privilege. For a long time, only a few chosen few got to be public figures. Now we’ve changed the equation and anyone can theoretically be public, can theoretically be seen by millions. So it mustn’t be a privilege anymore, eh? Not quite. There are still huge social costs to being public, social costs that geeks in Silicon Valley don’t have to account for. Not everyone gets to show up to work whenever they feel like it wearing whatever they’d like and expect a phatty paycheck. Not everyone has the opportunity to be whoever they want in public and demand that everyone else just cope. I know there are lots of folks out there who think that we should force everyone into the public so that we can create a culture where that IS the norm. Not only do I think that this is unreasonable, but I don’t think that this is truly what we want. The same Silicon Valley tycoons who want to push everyone into the public don’t want their kids to know that their teachers are sexual beings, even when their sexuality is as vanilla as it gets. Should we even begin to talk about the marginalized populations out there?

Recently, I gave a talk on the complications of visibility through social media. Power is critical in thinking through these issues. The privileged folks don’t have to worry so much about people who hold power over them observing them online. That’s the very definition of privilege. But most everyone else does. And forcing people into the public eye doesn’t dismantle the structures of privilege, the structures of power. What pisses me off is that it reinforces them. The privileged get more privileged, gaining from being exposed. And those struggling to keep their lives together are forced to create walls that are constantly torn down around them. The teacher, the abused woman, the poor kid living in the ghetto and trying to get out. How do we take them into consideration when we build systems that expose people?

Don’t get me wrong – folks have the right to enter the public stage. As long as we realize that this ain’t always pretty. I will never forget the teen girl who thought that her only chance out was to put up mostly naked photos online in the hopes that some talent agency would find her. All I could think of was the pimp who would.

There isn’t some radical shift in norms taking place. What’s changing is the opportunity to be public and the potential gain from doing so. Reality TV anyone? People are willing to put themselves out there when they can gain from it. But this doesn’t mean that everyone suddenly wants to be always in public. And it doesn’t mean that folks who live their lives in public don’t value privacy. The best way to maintain privacy as a public figure is to give folks the impression that everything about you is in public.

If we’re building a public stage, we need to give people the ability to protect themselves, the ability to face the consequences honestly. We cannot hide behind rhetoric of how everyone is public just because everyone we know in our privileged circles is walking confidently into the public sphere and assuming no risk. And we can’t justify our decisions as being simply about changing norms when the economic incentives are all around. I’m with Marshall on this one: Facebook’s decision is an economic one, not a social norms one. And that scares the bejesus out of me.

People care deeply about privacy, especially those who are most at risk of the consequences of losing it. Let us not forget about them. It kills me when the bottom line justifies social oppression. Is that really what the social media industry is about?


Read also:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

29 thoughts on “Facebook’s move ain’t about changes in privacy norms

  1. Jeff Larche

    I’m reminded that other channels of communication are perfectly glad to make money off of teens by providing them ways to use “private” disclosures as social capital. They know that this will fuel use and bind them to their service.

    A few generations ago, “Ma Bell” metered access to phone information. Access was sold then one residential line, and telephone extension, at a time. Teens back then begged for their own extensions. Many parents relented — and rented them. (Yes, rented them, including the hardware. Ah, what a different world back then!).

    Later the most affluent teens got separate land lines. In the eyes of the parents, this was done to accommodate their kids. Perhaps even “free up the main phone” for other calls.

    But unknowingly, what the teens were really craving when they asked for their own phones was a means to improving their status. And not just because multiple phones were a “status symbol.” The phones became hubs of privileged information. Similar to what you describe as the case of Facebook, back then teens were also eager to spread this information. And maximize its value by whom they told and when. Through the phone, teens selectively passed information in the way that best served their social advancement.

    In other words, nothing has changed since those days but the channels of managing information. I agree with you that privacy is as important today as it was then. So now let’s imagine if Facebook ruled The Phone Company of the 1960s.

    Imagine the telephone company back then selectively and quietly converting some of its residential lines to party lines. (Those who don’t know what a party line should google it — bizarre!)

    The phone company couldn’t do that because they were regulated. Even without regulation, this change is simply unimaginable.

    I don’t think laws are the answer. I’m against regulating social networks. I know that’s not what you’re suggesting. I’m not sure what is the answer, because Facebook made this move quite confident it would lead to growth and not mass defection.

    Yes, I too am scared. It’s unnerving to watch a large networks, with profits in mind, play with our privacy and then turn around and tell us we should get over it.

    You are right of course. If the information that the Facebook were making more widely distributed weren’t of value to its owners, the network would have no motivation for making the change in the first place.

  2. Fred

    I think it’s possible to refine the profit incentive argument even further: Facebook not only has a financial interest in opening up profiles, but a competitive one as well. Twitter is now their biggest competitor and has a better opportunity to monetize their users content than Facebook does because Twitter users expect their content (except in the minority of cases) to be public. Maybe not commercialized, but at least not private. This affords Twitter a massive amount of flexibility over Facebook.

    Another question is whether users should ever trust corporations like Facebook to protect their privacy. Are there any instances where the companies like Facebook have an interest in securely protecting their users privacy and have successfully done so? I think Facebook has a direct conflict of interest in protecting users privacy and am generally skeptical about whether a social network can ever put the privacy of their users first and profits second.

    So the Brin crowd’s argument isn’t as idealistic as you charge: it’s primarily concerned with the fact that privacy policies on sites like Facebook are fundamentally conflicted and therefore untrustworthy. Instead of asking everyone to be public they are warning everyone that expectations of strong privacy protections by companies like Facebook are illusory, so only share the data you are comfortable with eventually being public.

  3. kethryvis

    i can’t blame FaceBook as much as i’d like to. Did they do this all sneaky-like? Sure, and for that i’ll get ticky at them. BUT. i think the problem is that people think the Internet is a “private” space. My blog is my blog, no one reads it but me and my friends, right? So why the hell is CNN reading my blog over their airwaves?!oneoneeleventyone! It’s mine! It’s private! i can’t believe my parents found my blog now i’m in huge trouble. HOW DARE THEY!!! IT’S PRIVATE!!!

    No, it’s not. You put it on the internet, where anyone with Google can whip around and find what you said. Lurker culture is embedded into the internet. Just because you don’t see the eyes doesn’t mean they’re not there. People have forgotten that as they’ve moved rapidly onto the ‘net; that the ‘Net really is just one huge glass house. We think we’ve put up one-way glass, but not really.. it’s just barely tinted.

    that being said, the Internet does not demand information. What’s that old saying, on the Internet no one knows that you’re a dog? It’s TRUE. The Internet (and it’s social media) only knows about you what you tell it. No one is forcing you to say you make $10k a year at McDonald’s and live in a dumpy apartment and you only get ‘net access through your local library. The Internet only knows that if you tell it. FB doesn’t know anything about me that i didn’t tell it. If i don’t want the Internet/world at large to know something, i don’t tell it.

    In college, i played the Game of Scruples with my roommates and some of their assorted friends. They were amazed that they could not score a point on me, but i scored off of all of them and won the game. This was because i knew the possibility existed that this group of people would spread rumours and backstab, so i held my personal information close to my chest, only letting out that info which was innocuous and didn’t care if it got outside that group. They, on the other hand, didn’t care who knew what and made it very easy for me to tell how they operated, which is how you play Scruples (by guessing how people will react to certain ethical situations). I treat the Internet the same way; i don’t want it to beat me in Scruples.

    While i agree we need to be able to trust our Internet mogul sites with this type of information, the fact is that privacy is a two-way street and i think it’s high time for people to take responsibility for their own privacy as well. You have to trust the people you give your info to so that they don’t sell it for a sackful of quarters or something more nefarious. However, we also should be watching what info we do give out, even to those “trustworthy” sites/people on our Friends lists. If it’s info you don’t want to run the risk of having it turn public (either through your own fault, your friends’, or the site’s) then don’t put it out there at all. Then we can perhaps tip the balance of power back the other direction.

  4. Ralph Haygood

    “Because not everyone want[s] to share everything to everyone else all the time.” That was the gist of my reaction to “We live in public”, last year’s documentary about the strange, sad career of Josh Harris. (See it if you haven’t.) Some of the people loudly proclaiming the death of privacy are doing so not so much because they stand to profit from it as because they’re exhibitionists of sorts, not in the conventional sense (although Harris did broadcast video of himself and his girlfriend having sex) but in a broader, if-nobody’s-watching-me-I’m-not-really-alive sense. Such people don’t seem to understand that, as you argue, most people will choose to make public only what they believe it will benefit them to make public, which is far from everything.

  5. Ed Borasky

    Yeah, I’m with Marshall on this too. But it’s ludicrous to expect a large corporation to behave in a manner other than to maximize shareholder wealth. That applies to Facebook’s privacy stance, Google’s interactions with China and the US Federal government, and the actions of both Google and the carriers with respect to “net neutrality.”

    We don’t have elections every two years for seats on the boards of directors of large corporations like we do for the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate. The CEO of a corporation is not chosen every four years in a competitive process involving even all of the stakeholders, let alone the people of the nations in which these large corporations do business. The way you change corporate behavior is to buy from their competitors, or do without their products and services.

    Jonathan Rosenberg, Senior Vice President, Product Management of Google, in his rather lengthy blog post on “openness”, said this (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/meaning-of-open.html):

    “On the web, the new form of commerce is the exchange of personal information for something of value.”

    It’s up to us as consumers to actively examine the “value” we are getting in every such transaction, regardless of how difficult the “services” make that and how tempting their offers of “free” stuff and “discounts” are.

  6. zephoria

    Ed – I agree that the key is definitely to get people to think through the value they are getting with each transaction, but how would you propose doing this?

  7. josh

    I accept that I might not be the typical Facebook user, but I find it insane that they think that their users would prefer for everything to be public. When I created my account (so very long ago) I thought that the selling point was the layered privacy. I don’t really use it much; so I’m not terribly worked up about the changes. Still, the degree to which their privacy controls are confusing suggests that the company knows that its users prefer some degree of privacy and obfuscate the degree of publicness willfully.

  8. Vicki

    I just don’t get it. I read the ReadWriteWeb article. More to the point, I watched the video. I read the transcript. At no point does Zuckerberg say or imply that “privacy is dead”. Facebook hasn’t turned off privacy controls. They’ve made them more granular and more user-controllable.

    It concerns me that so many people are blaming Facebook, and Zuckerberg, based solely on Marshall Kirkpatrick’s interpretation of a few sentences.

    I’ll readily admit that FB isn’t my favorite social media site. Personally, I only use it because that’s where my sister posts. I never got into FB because it claimed to be “private”. “Bob only allows his friends to read what he writes”. This being the WWW, that expectation of “privacy” is flawed (not to mention naive).

    ANYthing you place on a site you don’t control is out of your control… and “privacy” needs to be understood better than most people understand it. It’s certainly true that a lot of FB users have already been “sharing” their “personal” information with an ever-wider audience. That was happening long before FB changed its policy configuration controls. That sharing deserves discussion and education.

    Sadly, for many people, the “privacy horse has left the barn” a long time ago. But the people to blame (if anyone is to blame) are the ones who have been sharing everything with “friends” numbering in the hundreds or thousands, not with the company that truly is giving them what they’ve asked for, whether they’ve asked for “everyone”, “friends” or “only me”.

    I’m glad we’re having this conversation. But I’d like to see us stop blaming the Big Bad Corporation and lay the blame where it belongs: at the feet of the users who don’t understand what “publishing” information really means.

  9. Bertil Hatt

    Sorry, but while I fully agree with you on the dynamics in a typical high school (blindfully: I went to a male-only geek dominated school), I tend to disagree with the filter that Marshall puts on that decision.

    First, I agree with Vicki: Facebook mostly introduced more control. I’m a very heavy user, in mostly two languages, and geeky academic link and comment on local parties don’t collide this well; that fine-grained ability to keep context separate was a blessing we both (if anything, as teachers) had been begging for ages. I was expecting you to hail that.

    Secondly, Facebook forced the question on everyone and they didn’t use the usual “Opt-out-tag you’re it until you figure out everything” solution. They prevented you from using the service unless you though about all what this blog is about for a while: public can be good, “friends” can mean litterally everybody, you’d rather focus on caring for people’s interest, etc. Yes, there are some aspects that you can’t make private (group membership) but that’s a good think if you ask me: I’m fed up with groups being used as badges, and not places for discussion on political matter. You have no idea how I’d love to post to every group administrator a screen grab of their page where is says “There is no discussion here.” with a Big, Phat, Red ‘#FAiL!’

    Thirdly, you do not want to live with people who take a rational and interested take on every decision they make: it’s called Econ Grad School and it’s a special kind of hell. You are much better of with people who spend time figuring things out and deciding on basic collective rules and negotating the rest, in a human, political way, rather than having people with the social skills of an econometrician leave for no apparent reason.

    Finally -and this is the comment I’m trying to leave everywhere, including on your Facebook wall- everybody, Kirkpatrick first, assumes that it is obvious that Facebook makes money by forcing people to reveal some information (as I pointed out, they seem to do the opposite to me, but let’s assume); isn’t Facebook business model a combination of targeted ads and focused census info? Doesn’t that kill their purpose to give away what they sell? Yes, they could be trying to get Google juice; but do most people search for the words that you come across on Facebook? Don’t they see that all that on their Friends’ page (and it is interesting elsewhere)? Or they are trying to get at twitter-by forcing public figures to reveal what they purposefully put on a personal page, while controlling their Fan page & their twitter stream? That would defeat the very smart business of being backstage and selling exclusive offers through targeted ads to opinion leaders, while letting Biz, Jack & Ev figure out a way to make money with their ad-hating, publicity starved attention. So, no: as an economist who has been spending years trying to figure out how to give an economic value to sites like Facebook, it doesn’t seem obvious to me how this is in their, or their investors interest.

    It certainly is: Zuckerberg is intelligent, bold & well advised and he sits on such a sh-tload of data it makes me cry trying to thing of the name of the sheer size of it-but I’d love to understand how or why it is, because behind that, there are the real social consequences of his move, and I don’t see it in yours, or Marshall’s take.

  10. Billy F.

    One of the reasons why I created a Facebook account was Privacy and control. When I first registered as a student at College it was required that I use my college e-mail address. So anyone couldn’t just login to Facebook.

    Facebook decided they should open access to everyone. This is when things began to go down the drain. When I would publish something I knew that my friends would be able to see the photos, wall posts, status etc. It was actually fun. When they opened Facebook to everyone this also brought the marketing companies and pushed Facebook to sell more, and more of our “private” data for advertisements e.g Beacon.

    Now Facebook wants to become a Twitter like service. Everyone doesn’t use twitter and everyone doesn’t want the world to know what we are doing. Everyone doesn’t care about self promotion to want so much publicity.

    One may argue that you have Privacy controls… If I need a PhD on privacy controls every time they change the site or decide what information “should” be public I dont think I want to spend the time learning how to keep the settings I already was using.

  11. Chris Brew

    This reminds me of the activities of Max Clifford in the UK. He is a publicist who acts as an agent for people who are (typically) doing “kiss-and-tell” stories in the press. Possibly his interests align with those of his clients (I almost said “subjects” or even “victims”), and often he provides a service that is highly appreciated by those of his clients who are already public figures, but to some extent he is just another part of an apparatus that draws vulnerable people into damaging public self-exposure. It is neither wholly false nor wholly true to claim that people who use his services understand what they are getting into. The UK has a lot of Levi Johnsons as a result.

    Whatever Mark Zuckerberg says, the changes in Facebook’s policy are going to cause some users to unintentionally reveal things that they will (either now or later) wish they had not. The consequences of this are unpredictable, but certainly not wholly positive. Zuckerberg has to live with the likelihood that this decision will cause collateral damage to vulnerable lives. Legally, Facebook is probably in the clear, morally and ethically, not so much. It’s creepy to try and pass the decision off as some kind of beneficent public service, which is what Zuckerberg seems to me to be doing.

  12. Todd Sieling

    Having not yet watched the Zuckerburg presentation, it does seem a familiar tune: technologists with an economic interest in a certain type of behavior assert that their technology innocently reflects real world changes in culture.

    I don’t doubt that privacy norms are changing. Richard Sennet’s work about public and private life in the centuries before ours shows some significant changes. But to first assert a technology with a privacy model that is often based primarily on what’s technically achievable, then to say the norm has changed is to subtly rewrite recent history while we’re still in the middle of it, all for economic gain. It’s dirty pool.

    Nick Carr made a passing comment on Gillmor Gang that has haunted me for over a year: that Google, Facebook and other companies are setting the terms of much of our future cultural engagement. No wonder people are chilled by the forces they are marshalling to tell us to behave in their interest, or to be the outsider.

  13. gregorylent

    a decent yogi knows everything about you .. privacy has always been an illusion based on limited minds ..

    tech is out-picturing what the mind can do .. the illusion of privacy is dying, just as the illusion of separateness ..

    it is of course a good thing ..

  14. fjpoblam

    Vicki: I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    I begin to tire of “If you don’t want it public, don’t put it online.” Meaning, go back to snail mail? NOT!

    The concern for privacy isn’t in my mind the growth of a Luddite community. It’s the maturation of internet users: a conscious decision not to become a “hive mind.”

    We know computers are powerful enough to hold our data and respect our privacy: and that (we) programmers are bright enough to tell those powerful computers how to do so.

    I see Zuckerman’s attitude as a lazy cop-out.

  15. Ed Borasky

    “Ed – I agree that the key is definitely to get people to think through the value they are getting with each transaction, but how would you propose doing this?”

    I have no idea how to do this. It’s certainly a subject of debate in the blogosphere, and at least the “net neutrality” debate and the “financial disclosure” debates have reached the attention of federal regulatory agencies and probably Congress and the White House. People still do watch “60 Minutes” and Oprah, right?

  16. jef wallace

    OK, so how many of you ladies have sexy pics on your profile that the freaks of the world are now going to get to see ? how many of you have teenage kids that are now, by definition, through imperial Zuckerberg edict, how would you put it: LIVING IN PUBLIC ???? or as I would put it: IN DANGER !!!!!!

    this flip flop is about getting the North Vietnamese re-education model of forced confession going here in the USA. now they know what you read, who you admire… if you use the status updates more than you use twitter status updates, because they are private-to-your-friends, “they” (who? EVERY “THEY” IMAGINABLE) will have total access to YOUR STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS AS IT EXTENDS BACK SEVERAL YEARS.

    Is Mark Zuckerberg out of his mind? No. Money-hungry? Obviously not.

    He is either under severe CIA blackmail, or some kind of sleeper agent programmed since childhood

    to PLIAGIARIZE SOMEONE ELSE’S IDEA (we all know about your lawsuit mark…)

    to RIDE SEAN PARKER’S TALENTS TO THE TOP (we know about that too…)

    to let a DISINFORMATION MOVIE FULL OF LIES come out about the founding of his company: http://showhype.com/story/popcrunch-justin-timberlake-facebook-movie-the-social/

    not to say what the KGB is doing with this information… or worse.

    and you were paid how much for creating this value ?

    some things are public, and some things are private. anyone who doesn’t like that gets an electric eye in their toilet bowl, or gets to live in the movie “a scanner darkly”. hell, anyone who doesn’t UNDERSTAND that – it’s like not understanding SEX – should be under suspicion as an Outer Party member.

    Big Brother Is Watching You ??! NO !!!!

  17. Christophe Bruchansky

    I really like this sentence: “The privileged get more privileged, gaining from being exposed. And those struggling to keep their lives together are forced to create walls that are constantly torn down around them.” Commercial interests are driving the debate around information, making a lot of people believe that sharing anything publicly is always a win for them and society. It isn’t: innovation, new ideas, construction of your personality requires intimacy. It might not generate few dollars for online advertisers if you don’t put everything public, but it might be much more valuable for you this way.

  18. alan p

    danah, with respect re power being the way to think this stuff through, I’d demur and say it economics – Facebook’s actions were certainly predictable at least two years ago. I know this, because I wrote an essay on just this issue then as part of the series on the myths of FreeConomics in early 2008:

    The Limits to Freeconomics II – Why your data is free, but everywhere in chains”

    Power is a second order factor here, the primary one is money.

    What is frustrating, frankly, is that its taken so many of the Social Mediarati 2 years (and more) to even begin to realise this! Bravo for writing about it.

  19. Alison

    Great post, although I feel I’m living in a different world compared to many of the commenters. Facebook is currently completely dominant as a social network, and it’s built its site on real names and details. Originally, the authenticity of the details went hand-in-hand with a promise of close control. Joining Facebook was not meant to be the equivalent of putting up a searchable website with all your details on it.

    Now that original privacy promise is eroding, for the benefit of Facebook and possibly for the benefit of other white male alpha geeks who are powerful and confident enough not to have to worry about their friends and their affiliations being visible to anyone who might pass by.

    Can I also say that there are very few female voices here, and that troubles me.

    Personally, I think that anyone who juggles multiple social worlds has a nightmare with Facebook; yet the very idea of multiple, separate social worlds seems opposite to the values of people developing software in this space.

  20. Katherine Warman Kern

    If Mark Zuckerberg thinks “privacy is dead” this will be the hubris that brings down Facebook. Facebook emerged and surpassed MySpace because it offered privacy. The economic decision to reverse the default to public betrays their core users who are defecting. Can Facebook create a new value proposition for the users it is attracting now?

    The answer to that question is what does Facebook give its users in exchange for the personal inforamtion they input? As Ed Borasky quotes Google (above) “On the web, the new form of commerce is the exchange of personal information for something of value.”

    Ed goes on to say: “It’s up to us as consumers to actively examine the ‘value’ we are getting in every such transaction, regardless of how difficult the ‘services’ make that and how tempting their offers of ‘free’ stuff and ‘discounts’ are.”

    Ed, isn’t it possible that the value of privacy is increasing exponentially. In other words, I’m getting to the point that I’d give more information and even pay an entity which is dedicated to maximizing the value of that information to me by expanding and sustaining my “circle”, instead lining their own pockets.

    Katherine Warman Kern

  21. Bertil Hatt

    Sorry to come back here, but so many of the people I follow mention this original post, and so few seem to challenge your opinion that I felt compelled to follow up my initial comment here.

    Facebook didn’t reveal everyone’s private information: they did three things. They introduced far more control for status updates and links; they interrupted 350 million users experience with a detailed, three page long explanation on what is privacy (this page should be quoted more, because that’s what most users have seen) and they exposed group membership. I’ve been trying to figure out how this would help Facebook, whose model is to sell detailed private information to advertisers.

    First, read danah’s post about NewsFeed trainwreck: Facebook has a history of reacting really fast, really well to users’ demands. In spite of having the blogosphere ablaze with critic, they said nothing. Setting Groups to private by default (or rather visible from the group page, but not appear on the Public profile of a user) can’t be that hard. There is something here that is different from a feature ill implemented.

    Second, (from what I can tell from my colleague’s & 15 yo cousin’s usage) groups are a failure for Facebook: click on the “Discussion” tab on most of them to admire how debate has been replaced by nombrilist jokes. I really hate that every question about society has turned into a set of dogma (like feminism) but Facebook relevance filter probably hate the joking part more: belonging to “I flip my pillow every hour to sleep on the cooler side” doesn’t help them target you more; knowing who you want to tell that you just took a joy ride in your Ford, that helps Facebook make money. So (it makes sense to me that) they want to encourage you to tell more about yourself, using your own words, and choosing your audience (just like danah wants) rather than click on “Join” and forget about “1,000,000 Strong *AGAINST* War, Hate, Aids, Rape, Cancer & Starvation!!!!”

    That move sounds more like a balancing away from low-involvement group, to avoid spammers that post on the walls of such groups, and allow Facebook to activate a feature that was announced. That would be my third point: am I the only one to remember that they promissed to have Group updates in your NewsFeed? Where are those? I’d probably have to leave many groups as soon as this one is activated, and so would many. Is it worth it, financially, to Facebook to sort actual places where people discuss? Yes, if among the groups left you count the many sponsored Groups, and that those finally have access to the NewsFeed. I’m not in favor of commercialisation of how attention, but that’s the most obvious Facebook business, so I like it when I see something that looks like it because then it makes sense to me.

    So, in conclusion: no Facebook isn’t deleting our privacy; they offered everyone the possibility to use they tool to be more public (“ability” is part of Zuckerberg’s every sentence). They only forced one feature to be public, and I guess they did so to change the way people use it. It is in their interest and all their recent decisions (including more controls, RT) would encourage to use more modular, though-through conversations; in other words, they change usage in a good, constructive way. That company is far from being perfect, but so far, their interest seems rather aligned to mine (being relevant, well design, empowering users) so I’d say I don’t like your rant.

  22. putyourendtowar

    the infinite “f”

    facebook’s faceless fascism for f*cking friends and freaking fearless fear mongering for free or for a fee forbearing our forefather’s futility fending off foes from franchise as a front in the fight for freedom funded by the fbi… f–b-eye…

    next installation: the infinite “s” = spam

  23. emilyseong

    Despite changes in technology privacy is by no means dead. In fact it often seems that the more technology CAN infringe on privacy the more important protecting it becomes. In fact our notions of privacy seem to be developing MORE in relationship to increasingly open social technologies. Although some people may feel the instinct to run for the hills rather than deal with the realities of technology’s ability to invade our lives there is something you can do about it: Control the Conversation. Prior to the second round of outcry centered on Zuckerberg’s remarks I wrote a post for my employer (Banyan Branch, a social media consultancy) about the initial changes to Facebook Privacy in early December, and a range of appropriate and feasible responses. The full post is here. http://www.banyanbranch.com/control-the-conversation-protect-your-personal-privacy/

  24. Michael Weiksner

    Great post! Perhaps at the risk of breaking your great analogy, why do boys like Bob trust girls like Alice? Since Alice=Facebook in this example, the answer might reveal why we were collectively “fooled” by Facebook’s original privacy policies. Now, it seems inevitable (due to competitive pressures and financial gain) that Facebook would change in the manner that it has.


  25. Mark A.M. Kramer

    “Privacy isn’t a technological binary that you turn off and on. Privacy is about having control of a situation. It’s about controlling what information flows where and adjusting measures of trust when things flow in unexpected ways. It’s about creating certainty so that we can act appropriately. People still care about privacy because they care about control.”

    Brilliantly communicated.

    We should not forget that Mark Zuckerberg may not have much experience himself with control or privacy issues. In fact, I bet he is just a front-man for a more sinister side of facebook which has yet to surface.

    Social media should (MUST!!) be shaped and controlled by users themselves, not arbitrarily offered as an”option” by social-utlities such as facebook.

  26. Lydia Lucas

    Oh Mark Zuckerberg…I just find it annoying that this guy and his team sneak past us all these privacy issues without us know. At least Facebook is a great web app…

Comments are closed.