Facebook and “radical transparency” (a rant)

At SXSW, I decided to talk about privacy because I thought that it would be the most important issue of the year. I was more accurate than my wildest dreams. For the last month, I’ve watched as conversations about privacy went from being the topic of the tech elite to a conversation that’s pervasive. The press coverage is overwhelming – filled with infographics and a concerted effort by journalists to make sense of and communicate what seems to be a moving target. I commend them for doing so.

My SXSW used a bunch of different case studies but folks focused on two: Google and Facebook. After my talk, I received numerous emails from folks at Google, including the PM in charge of Buzz. The tenor was consistent, effectively: “we fucked up, we’re trying to fix it, please help us.” What startled me was the radio silence from Facebook, although a close friend of mine told me that Randi Zuckerberg had heard it and effectively responded with a big ole ::gulp:: My SXSW critique concerned their decision in December, an irresponsible move that I felt put users at risk. I wasn’t prepared for how they were going to leverage that data only a few months later.

As most of you know, Facebook has been struggling to explain its privacy-related decisions for the last month while simultaneously dealing with frightening security issues. If you’re not a techie, I’d encourage you to start poking around. The NYTimes is doing an amazing job keeping up with the story, as is TechCrunch, Mashable, and InsideFacebook. The short version… People are cranky. Facebook thinks that it’s just weirdo tech elites like me who are pissed off. They’re standing firm and trying to justify why what they’re doing is good for everyone. Their attitude has triggered the panic button amongst regulators and all sorts of regulators are starting to sniff around. Facebook hired an ex-Bush regulator to manage this. No one is quite sure what is happening but Jason Calacanis thinks that Facebook has overplayed its hand. Meanwhile, security problems mean that even more content has been exposed, including email addresses, IP addresses (your location), and full chat logs. This has only upped the panic amongst those who can imagine worst case scenarios. Like the idea that someone out there is slowly piecing together IP addresses (location) and full names and contact information. A powerful database, and not one that anyone would be too happy to be floating around.

Amidst all of what’s going on, everyone is anxiously awaiting David Kirkpatrick’s soon-to-be-released “The Facebook Effect.” which basically outlines the early days of the company. Throughout the book, Kirkpatrick sheds light on why we’re where we are today without even realizing where we’d be. Consider these two quotes from Zuckerberg:

  • “We always thought people would share more if we didn’t let them do whatever they wanted, because it gave them some order.” – Zuckerberg, 2004
  • “You have one identity… The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly… Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity” – Zuckerberg, 2009

In trying to be a neutral reporter, Kirkpatrick doesn’t critically interrogate the language that Zuckerberg or other executives use. At times, he questions them, pointing to how they might make people’s lives challenging. But he undermines his own critiques by accepting Zuckerberg’s premise that the tides they are a turning. For example, he states that “The older you are, the more likely you are to find Facebook’s exposure of personal information intrusive and excessive.” Interestingly, rock solid non-marketing data is about to be released to refute this point. Youth are actually much more concerned about exposure than adults these days. Why? Probably because they get it. And it’s why they’re using fake names and trying to go on the DL (down-low).

With this backdrop in mind, I want to talk about a concept that Kirkpatrick suggests is core to Facebook: “radical transparency.” In short, Kirkpatrick argues that Zuckerberg believes that people will be better off if they make themselves transparent. Not only that, society will be better off. (We’ll ignore the fact that Facebook’s purse strings may be better off too.) My encounters with Zuckerberg lead me to believe that he genuinely believes this, he genuinely believes that society will be better off if people make themselves transparent. And given his trajectory, he probably believes that more and more people want to expose themselves. Silicon Valley is filled with people engaged in self-branding, making a name for themselves by being exhibitionists. It doesn’t surprise me that Scoble wants to expose himself; he’s always the first to engage in a mass collection on social network sites, happy to be more-public-than-thou. Sometimes, too public. But that’s his choice. The problem is that not everyone wants to be along for the ride.

Jeff Jarvis gets at the core issue with his post “Confusing *a* public with *the* public”. As I’ve said time and time again, people do want to engage in public, but not the same public that includes all of you. Jarvis relies on Habermas, but the right way to read this is through the ideas of Michael Warner’s “Publics and Counterpublics”. Facebook was originally a counterpublic, a public that people turned to because they didn’t like the publics that they had accessed to. What’s happening now is ripping the public that was created to shreds and people’s discomfort stems from that.

What I find most fascinating in all of the discussions of transparency is the lack of transparency by Facebook itself. Sure, it would be nice to see executives use the same privacy settings that they determine are the acceptable defaults. And it would be nice to know what they’re saying when they’re meeting. But that’s not the kind of transparency I mean. I mean transparency in interface design.

A while back, I was talking with a teenage girl about her privacy settings and noticed that she had made lots of content available to friends-of-friends. I asked her if she made her content available to her mother. She responded with, “of course not!” I had noticed that she had listed her aunt as a friend of hers and so I surfed with her to her aunt’s page and pointed out that her mother was a friend of her aunt, thus a friend-of-a-friend. She was horrified. It had never dawned on her that her mother might be included in that grouping.

Over and over again, I find that people’s mental model of who can see what doesn’t match up with reality. People think “everyone” includes everyone who searches for them on Facebook. They never imagine that “everyone” includes every third party sucking up data for goddess only knows what purpose. They think that if they lock down everything in the settings that they see, that they’re completely locked down. They don’t get that their friends lists, interests, likes, primary photo, affiliations, and other content is publicly accessible.

If Facebook wanted radical transparency, they could communicate to users every single person and entity who can see their content. They could notify then when the content is accessed by a partner. They could show them who all is included in “friends-of-friends” (or at least a number of people). They hide behind lists because people’s abstractions allow them to share more. When people think “friends-of-friends” they don’t think about all of the types of people that their friends might link to; they think of the people that their friends would bring to a dinner party if they were to host it. When they think of everyone, they think of individual people who might have an interest in them, not 3rd party services who want to monetize or redistribute their data. Users have no sense of how their data is being used and Facebook is not radically transparent about what that data is used for. Quite the opposite. Convolution works. It keeps the press out.

The battle that is underway is not a battle over the future of privacy and publicity. It’s a battle over choice and informed consent. It’s unfolding because people are being duped, tricked, coerced, and confused into doing things where they don’t understand the consequences. Facebook keeps saying that it gives users choices, but that is completely unfair. It gives users the illusion of choice and hides the details away from them “for their own good.”

I have no problem with Scoble being as public as he’d like to be. And I do think it’s unfortunate that Facebook never gave him that choice. I’m not that public, but I’m darn close. And I use Twitter and a whole host of other services to be quite visible. The key to addressing this problem is not to say “public or private?” but to ask how we can make certain people are 1) informed; 2) have the right to chose; and 3) are consenting without being deceived. I’d be a whole lot less pissed off if people had to opt-in in December. Or if they could’ve retained the right to keep their friends lists, affiliations, interests, likes, and other content as private as they had when they first opted into Facebook. Slowly disintegrating the social context without choice isn’t consent; it’s trickery.

What pisses me off the most are the numbers of people who feel trapped. Not because they don’t have another choice. (Technically, they do.) But because they feel like they don’t. They have invested time, energy, resources, into building Facebook what it is. They don’t trust the service, are concerned about it, and are just hoping the problems will go away. It pains me how many people are living like ostriches. If we don’t look, it doesn’t exist, right?? This isn’t good for society. Forcing people into being exposed isn’t good for society. Outting people isn’t good for society, turning people into mini-celebrities isn’t good for society. It isn’t good for individuals either. The psychological harm can be great. Just think of how many “heros” have killed themselves following the high levels of publicity they received.

Zuckerberg and gang may think that they know what’s best for society, for individuals, but I violently disagree. I think that they know what’s best for the privileged class. And I’m terrified of the consequences that these moves are having for those who don’t live in a lap of luxury. I say this as someone who is privileged, someone who has profited at every turn by being visible. But also as someone who has seen the costs and pushed through the consequences with a lot of help and support. Being publicly visible isn’t always easy, it’s not always fun. And I don’t think that anyone should go through what I’ve gone through without making a choice to do it. So I’m angry. Very angry. Angry that some people aren’t being given that choice, angry that they don’t know what’s going on, angry that it’s become OK in my industry to expose people. I think that it’s high time that we take into consideration those whose lives aren’t nearly as privileged as ours, those who aren’t choosing to take the risks that we take, those who can’t afford to. This isn’t about liberals vs. libertarians; it’s about monkeys vs. robots.

if you’re not angry / you’re just stupid / or you don’t care
how else can you react / when you know / something’s so unfair
the men of the hour / can kill half the world in war
make them slaves to a super power / and let them die poor

– Ani Difranco, Out of Range

(Also posted at Blogher)

(Translated to Italian by orangeek)

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95 thoughts on “Facebook and “radical transparency” (a rant)

  1. Rigo Wenning

    Hi Danah,

    if you look at Habermas as a researcher, you MUST look at Niclas Luhmann too. Luhmann said that truth is the aggregation of a gazillion interactions. During his lifetime, those were mostly analog or ephemeral interactions. Imagine, we could compute truth or the origin of morale through social networks as they create this extensive visibility. This would also tell us how to influence or even control morale. And isn’t this what we are talking about? Like Beate Roessler said: Isn’t it all about the autonomy (also in decisions) of people? Privacy rulez!

  2. Gordon Rae

    Thank you for writing this. It’s impassioned, but far too well-proportioned to be called a rant. And it presents the topic so well that I think I could even explain it to my own mother, now.

  3. Pierre B.

    Thank you for so eloquently wording what a lot of people have been feeling for a long time about privacy (I’m glad I found your blog to express my thanks ;-).

    I’ve been skeptical of Facebook since 2007 (their app platform design was an early sign that they would force exposure/monetization of user data not matter what people would say).

    Your point on “self-branding” of some influent tech bloggers is right-on. Their notion of “transparency” is very particular to them and they don’t seem to realize for the rest of us it’s a very different matter.

    I also really appreciated what I could read from your talk at SXSW with respect to Google Buzz. I’ve been really upset by Buzz when they launched (they took unacceptable liberties with my private data, without my consent). Their subsequent fixes didn’t address its core problems, which goes to show that Google is in a very similar position to Facebook & tech bloggers à la Scoble, they don’t really “get” privacy (at least concerning Buzz; today’s wifi leak episode seems to be handled seriously).

    So again, thank you for voicing concerns shared by a lot of people.

  4. Will Richardson

    Thanks for this analysis, danah. It’s extremely helpful thinking for me as I try to figure ut the issues surrounding privacy and transparency in my young kids’ lives. It’s also an opportunity to examine that balance in my own life as well.

    What is most frustrating to me is these issues are critical for our kids to think about and learn about, yet they have no context that’s being provided by informed adults in the classroom. In schools, these types of concerns are met with blinders; rather than treating this as an essential part of literacy, we cross our fingers and hope for the best because it’s the path of least resistance, from teachers who don’t want to deal with the rethinking their own participation online and their curriculum and from parents who don’t want their kids exposed. We just can’t seem to get our brains and our practice around the huge implications of growing up in a radically transparent world.

  5. Bertil Hatt

    I’d love to say I’m happily surprised by this rant, but I’m not: you worked your head for years of to become the one person to say that, and this is worth it (Ok, maybe not, but I still want the narrative to be “Kids: work, it pays off.”) I’d still give a fortune to see of Zuckerberg silently listening to you.

    > Being public has benefits. […] But exposure […] is a different beast.

    Great summary, but no: you have a expert bias here. We’ve had several cases of self-exposure on the French web, people putting videos adressed to “anyone and everyone” that rapidly turned into viral mockery. Most victims were semi-autistic, I’d say; I’m not sure how each have experienced it, dealt with it, and I’m not sure all wish they’d be able to ‘put the ginny back in the bottle’ but all have suffered from bullying. Control isn’t just choice—you also need empathy and understanding to be able to operate ex ante.

    Lastly, what can we do (those of us who don’t have Zuck’s phone number). Honestly, I don’t trust the guys from Diaspora to have the skills, neither can I say that all the other, many similar projects have the incentive, abilities or network effect aligned. They might —and we’d see yet another migration to a new dominating player. Facebook has a unique mix of reputation, adoption, means (financial and adoption) & skills (scaling, UX, IA, App platform, device, etc.) and the vision to do the right thing.

    Correcting them is the best we can do, and the best way to correct them is by usage: they’ll see stats, and adapt their features accordingly. There is a way to filter status updates to groups of friends: it’s tedious and impractical, but if we all use it regularly, Facebook will learn that some things in our life aren’t to be shared with all. Those who feel like quitting: please do — this fuels the fire to keep an important debate boiling. Those who would still have too many friends (like me): use the filtering feature as much as you can, and demand it to be extended to Friends-of-friends and the Profile information.

  6. Kenneth Freeman/kencf0618

    The Zeitgeist has certainly turned on Facebook; they’ve overplayed their hand with their all too clever bait-and-switch tactics regarding one’s “privacy” settings, and virtually overnight hoi polloi gets creeped out. I began calling it “StalkFace” weeks ago!

    The use another cliché, they’ve reached a tipping point. I was thinking last night that one could graph usages of the phrase “felt creepy” as people realized that this extraordinarily useful social platform has become a stalker environment.

    It’s all very interesting. I’ve been on-line in one forum or another since early 1989, so I remember when the standard advice was that you shouldn’t use your real name on-line. O tempora, o mores!

  7. kristen kuhns

    One of the best articles on this subject I’ve read. Most older people (I do a lot of teaching to seniors), and given the fastest sub-set of FB users is 55+ year old women, do not understand the rules. They don’t really want to be bothered to learn & remember all the settings, until I also point out what can be seen by them and then they are appalled, especially since many are using FB to connect to remote family and keep up with grandchildren, which can inadvertently spill information about their grandchildren to anyone who’d care to look.

  8. Jay

    Disappointed to see the people you consider influential or important here. Notice the Facebook book plug. Not a surprise to see considering somehow all of you are covering it.

    You are far smarter than these people and can do far better than this.

  9. Yule Heibel

    Thank-you for this excellent critique, danah!

    Last weekend I attended Vancouver’s Northern Voice 2010 conference. One of the sessions was on journalism and social media (called “How [Should] Journalists Use Social Media?”). Based on audience (and some Twitter) reaction, it was clear that people were surprised by the journos description of how they “mine” social media for information.

    I blogged about the session – informed also by your piece here and its analysis of power (read: class, privilege) relationships – here:

    PS: I had a more detailed comment to explain the journo issue, but made the error of putting the name of my blog in the last field instead of yours, which got me nuked – couldn’t use the “back” option to find it again either. So I’ll leave my post’s link instead…!

  10. Brian Nizinsky

    Having a Facebook account is 100% by choice. If you open one, you submit yourself to their T&C’s. Don’t like it? Move on. Facebook has only 1 master, and that is the dollar. They are a company in search of revenue and profits and if our data gets them there that’s their prerogative.

    If you can’t accept that as a business model then simply cancel your account.

  11. Paul Jacobson

    Thank you for this post! I have been writing about how the issue now is more about informed consent and meaningful choice when it comes to users’ personal information and it has often felt like I was talking to myself. Your post validates many of my arguments and I appreciate your rant tremendously!

    I frequently wonder what the outcome of this furore might be and I gave up trying to predict it. The unfortunate reality is likely to be that the vast majority of Facebook users will keep sharing on the service oblivious to the challenges Facebook’s privacy approach presents. Hopefully Facebook will review its behaviour and change its approach to ensure informed consent and meaningful choice over profile information. I am not optimistic, though. The trend doesn’t favour this outcome at all.

  12. Baratunde's Aunt

    typo: “the right want to read this” –> “the right way to read this”

    Lovely to see you the other day, and a great post. But I think FB is doing us a service by making this a topic of discussion — while they are pushing visibility and transparency forward today, the increase of personal visibility (for all of one’s life’s data, not just casual updates you find time to write down) is happening in a hundred other places, completely silently.

    If FB shut down tomorrow, 10 years from now we would still all have more access to one another’s personal data than we do today. So we should be thinking about how to assess and approach that.

    And I agree with Annalee – I don’t see any connection between traditional notions of privilege and benefiting from increased visibility – that’s something that I would guess cuts across all backgrounds and walks of life.


  13. Cecilia

    This is excellent! I get lost with many of the discussions I find online, but this “rant” clearly and succintly dissects the problem. Thanks!

    I second Till’s question “Any plans for translations?”

    I’m asking because I’m Argentinian, and I would love my friends to read this, but not many of them understand English well enough.
    I’d be honored to try my hand at a Spanish version.

  14. zephoria Post author

    I always welcome translations as long as you send me a copy so that I can link it from here. I’m not fluent enough in any language to actually do a translation though.

  15. Brian

    Bravo! Well thought through and articulated. I feel Facebook’s stance on privacy is very much a reflection of Mark Zuckerberg. However intelligent he may be, Mark Zuckerberg is the most ethically challenged executive in America today. How he sees privacy is as much a reflection of his immaturity (someone had to say this) and his belief that we are sheep, or a fruit tree to be picked and exploited.

    I have approached Facebook with trepidation, putting only the minimum of information on my page to re-connect with old classmates, and to be the front end of a corporate fan page.

    No more.

    In recent weeks, I have been terrified by what I have read about the Mark Zuckerberg point of view and how Facebook has worked so very hard to obfuscate any reasonable protection of its users. Opt-in is a laughable concept at Facebook, and Opt-out has been made so difficult as to be an impossible dream. Mark Zuckerberg must be full of himself, laughing at all of us who are stupid enough to buy into the Facebook concept, while he sells away our freedom to the highest bidder.


    In the next day, I plan to email my friends to let them know my decision to pull out of Facebook, and to go through the lengthy process of deleting my information (not that I have any confidence that this will really happen, given Facebook’s abysmal track record on respecting and protecting user privacy). But I have to do something.

    I invite you to join me. And I urge you to ask your friends to pull out of Facebook as well. Only by voting with our feet will we be able to send a message to Mr. “there’s a sucker born every minute” Zuckerberg. Waiting for Congress and the Federal Government to act will be like waiting for Godot, if it ever happens at all. Zuckerberg is Teflon, and he has invested a lot of money to buy a team of Washington lobbyists to protect his domain. The only way you can protect yourself is to run as fast as you can from this monster. Now.

    I am. Will you join me?

    Some links to check:

    How to permanently delete your account from Facebook: http://www.wikihow.com/Permanently-Delete-a-Facebook-Account

    Quit Facebook today

    Let the revolt begin!

  16. Mimi Tanner

    Thank you so much for this brilliant article. You’re right that many in business feel that they have “no choice” but to be on FB, Twitter, and the like – because “everybody is.”

    Transparency may be a great idea for someone like the founder of Facebook who is very young, but those of us who have lived several different incarnations in our 50-plus years, starting long before the internet age, do not necessarily want ALL of thepeople from our past coming together at a Facebook Shindig at this late date.

    Baby-boomers like me have subscribed to different belief systems over our lifetimes, made mistakes, married and divorced, have a variety of jobs, may want privacy from certain people in particular – and in general, we prefer privacy about the things we want – private!

    And thank you also for pointing out what I have read in very few places – Facebook insists – even bullies the user (you can’t list your high school or college AT ALL now unless you agree to link to them) into revealing more and more – unwittingly, while at the same time, Facebook hides the way out – if there even really is a way out. Settings a person set in the past actually get changed by Facebook – and to find out takes a lot of time and diligence. Who has time for that?

    It’s is good to read that even some who may not feel the need for privacy themselves can utterly respect the wishes of those who do – and consider it a right. And it’s very thoughtful that you point out the truth that people do in fact “feel trapped” – and that even if they are not technically trapped, this is still wrong – because you’re recognizing that they are feeling forced to go along with things they don’t really want – and that Facebook intentionally defaults away from asking its users “permission” for anything.

    Seems like the people at Facebook were not raised with any manners….

  17. bork

    “If Facebook wanted radical transparency, they could communicate to users every single person and entity who can see their content. They could notify then when the content is accessed by a partner.”

    Yikes. I’m all for better privacy settings, but I think I’d feel even more nervous using Facebook if I knew FB was ‘reporting’ all the content I viewed to its poster. No?

  18. zephoria Post author

    bork – There’s a difference between CAN and DOES. I’m suggesting that users see all of the individuals on FB who can see their content and all of the 3rd party partners who do pull that data. I’m not suggesting that it report back each and every individual who accesses the content (even though plenty of people want that).

  19. gustavo

    dana, good thoughts. The battle is not over privacy, the battle is over user control of his/her information in user generated content sites. Commercial interests such as facebook want transparency to make money. We want control over our information.
    great to read your piece

  20. genoki

    If Zuckerberg really believes in total transparency and having two identities means you have no integrity, then he should make all facebook users his friend so we can see all of his contacts, communications, etc.

    Total hypocrite.

  21. anon

    so let me reflect back… zephoria thinks she is in the middle of this issue with players like Google and Facebook, and that she’s apparently really visible and in the limelight all the time. and something else about privacy issues.

  22. Lisa Stone

    danah, IMO this post isn’t a rant, it’s a public service. Amen.

    At BlogHer we’re thinking a lot about how to get advice/opinions like yours and Jessamyn West’s to the widest possible circle of users–including those of us who are helping people under 18 make informed decisions about their online identities. Our syndication editor, Rita Arens, will be in touch.

  23. Z-lot

    Zuckerberg doesn’t practice what he preaches. That in itself should close the case on where the truth lies in this case.

    You forgot to include a direct link to the page of salvation, the only alternative available at the moment: http://bit.ly/DeleteFB

  24. doug

    I think we should take some cues from our parents – you know – the ones that we constantly belittle for not going online, or, oh my god mom’s not on facebook! etc.

    For my mother, if you peel away the techphobia, is that she just can’t understand how people can just share everything, and, how absolutely vain they all are. She is mortified by it all. Now, she stays on, to get pics of the grandkids, but she i not an avid user in any way.

    My grandmother thinks its nuts.

    These are people who have decades of experience around what you should and shouldn’t know about people. They understand the harm that can be had — not just in the shortterm, but hte longterm as well. I think we are drinking our own koolaid in thinking how much more “advanced” we are, how we are “different”, better, etc.

    So, rather than belittle them, I think we might want to go back and ask them again. Before we get the “I told you so” lecture.

  25. Mansi Bhatia

    Thanks for writing this, Danah. I was an avid “Facebooker” with 401 friends and treated the platform as an active conversation medium. I quit Facebook last week precisely because of the reason that pisses you off: the idea of feeling trapped even when we have a choice. A lot of people wrote me e-mails and asked me why I quit. These were the same people whose accounts I had helped set up…I told them I didn’t want to be a robot anymore. I want to have meaningful friendships that involve a give and take, not just information overload with tagged photos, likes and brief status updates. I want to “be” a friend, not just friend counter.

  26. Agatha

    I’m tempted to put your quote:

    “‘The battle that is underway is not a battle over the future of privacy and publicity. It’s a battle over choice and informed consent. It’s unfolding because people are being duped, tricked, coerced, and confused into doing things where they don’t understand the consequences. Facebook keeps saying that it gives users choices, but that is completely unfair. It gives users the illusion of choice and hides the details away from them “for their own good.”

    as my FB status… but I’m a bit scared, and am not sure of what!

  27. Joe M

    As someone who is very interested in this conversation, I join the chorus of applause on your post – well said. During my brief stint at LJ, I was amazed at the type of choice given a user for deciding on what, or what not, to share with friends. This core belief (as well as anonymity) is at the root of the success (and some would say non-success) of the service. The evolution of F/B, on the other hand, has always been about the “real” you – your picture, your friends, your likes and dislikes. Their implied promise was that they would allow you complete control over the real you with good privacy controls and settings. But that control has been gradually taken away from the users, and to me, the promise broken.

    Their cavalier attitude towards user privacy is alarming and their privacy controls confusing. I came across this site http://www.reclaimprivacy.org/facebook that simplifies things a bit for users who use it. The problem is getting this gem out in front of enough people so at least they can control (to the extent possible) the dissemination of themselves. As a public person perhaps you can help spread the word.

  28. Aaron

    From one of the social-media underprivileged: thank you.

    One thing people don’t realize is that an unwillingness to trust the flavor of the month can marginalize the hell out of somebody; if you don’t use Facebook because you don’t trust it, but everybody you know uses Facebook and nothing else, it becomes awfully hard to keep up with your friends, or to know what’s going on — it’s basically taking the entire social circle, handing it over to Facebook for safekeeping, and freezing out anybody who doesn’t want to hand themselves over to Facebook too. It’s amazing how much otherwise sensible people are willing to trust some arrogant Web 2.0 trust-fund baby they’ll never meet, without even realizing for an instant that that’s what they’re doing.

  29. Gwynne

    Thanks for a thoughtful post–and one that helps me to organize my own thoughts that have been swirling around.

    There is one additional risk or potential consequence that you didn’t mention. And that is what happens after Facebook blows itself up because of its overplayed hand.

    The specter of hearings, ill-informed and ill conceived regulations, and shutdown of honest interactions hang heavy over the post-Facebook future. And I will curse Facebook more for what they ruined for us–those personal and desired open doors and connections–than for how we rue them today.

  30. Edo A. Elan

    A girl misses the fact her mother might know her aunt (on either the mother’s or father’s side). Why does the girl makes this mistake? Boyd says that it’s because “friends of friends” is a too-abstract concept. Referring to the list of friends-of-friends, she says “Facebook is hiding behind lists”.

    If missing the connection between your aunt to your mother reflects a cognitive difficulty in extrapolating 2nd degree contacts, doesn’t it also affect Facebook’s designers and the prophets of “radical transparency”? Perhaps they, too, can’t imagine that a “user’s friend’s friend” is the user’s own mother? Are you comfortable with my extrapolations in the previous sentence? Didn’t they irritate your brain like these riddles where a man turns out to be his own grandfather? Some characterize Facebook’s actions as “Outing”, implying they see the bigger picture and understand “friends-of-friends” better than you or me. I’m not so sure.

    More PM Facebook/privacy thoughts: http://edoamin.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/the-friend-of-my-friend-is-not-my-mother/

  31. LKJ

    Carrie Brown-Smith writes, “I’m white and I’m a professor with a PhD, and therefore I certainly am very open on social networks.” I don’t follow your logic: “I’m a white professor, therefore I am open on social networks” is nonsensical.

  32. Travis H.

    I anxiously await Zuckerberg’s live A/V feed from his bedroom. Because, having a private life separate from your public one lacks integrity, right?

  33. Kate Malinoski

    This was a very thoughtful and well informed post. This quote from Zuckerberg really stood out to me: “You have one identity… The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly… Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” I’m just dying to see Zuckerberg interact with his friends and family in comparison to his professional behavior. People are expected to behave a certain way in specific scenarios, and I think respecting those expectations by modifying your behavior is part of having integrity.

  34. Winwood

    I’ve seen quite a few news and blog posts about this but this has been one of the best worded and most aware of them. Kudos. Not sure if you heard about the move to push people to quit facebook on the 31st (http://www.quitfacebookday.com/) but I think a one or two day “No Facebook Protest” would be an effective way to prove to Facebook that the users are concerned. Thoughts?

  35. eric

    I fail to see how Habermas and Warner differ in this context and I think you missed the point of Jarvis’ reference to the former. The “public sphere” developed in opposition to the empowered private sphere of exclusivity. So the public sphere in Habermas’ conception is the original counterpublic. It developed as a quasi-egalitarian counterweight to the existing power structure. That there is a multiplicity of public spheres today goes to the point made by the astute commentor who referenced Luhmann.

    Too bad about the hyperbolic ending to such a well-conceived post.

  36. vruz

    You’ll be hard pressed to find any praise for facebook coming from me. but we are in trouble if the CEO of Facebook can’t candidly express frustration about a shortcoming in a product he owns.
    Is it that servile praise is the only thing that will please Infinite Loop and their faithfull?
    It’s that image of aesthetic perfection and infallibility what apple sells, and the faithfull buy, after all.
    A lousy phone that can’t stay functional is an ugly sight in the mirror.
    Not that that matters much if your philosophy can be reduced to: glorify form at the expense of function.

  37. Matthew Nadolski

    I am sorry to say this, but facebook is what? A database of information related to a label that you put on it in a name field.

    Anyone who desires to utilize such a service should do the following:

    A) Retain information they consider private.


    B) Not use their real name- and certainly NOT allow their face or address to be used in any kind of relationship to said database if privacy is a major concern.

    Anybody who didn’t see the potential for this kind of abuse is frankly either a high caliber idiot ( if they had to think about it but did it anyway ) or out and out too belligerent for their own good ( if they never thought about anything related to privacy in the first place. ).

    For the record my mother is a computer illiterate and took privacy precautions including an entirely false name ( the name isn’t even related nationally ) and picture.

    I understand why you are pissed at Zuky, and god knows that I hate the man to the point where you know, IF someone happened to put a .308 in his skull; well it wouldn’t dampen my day. ( NO, I am not hiring. It’s a statement of feelings, not a threat. ) But the personal responsibility factor here is far and away too large to simply ignore.

    And yes that is my real name because I would GLADLY take responsibility for these statements. Corporate enterprise has absolutely never been about protecting the customer from ANYTHING; and it should be absolutely NO surprise that nothing has changed with the transition from the catalog, from the storefront, to the internet.

    And I’m sure any CEO of any massive corporation would happily, laughingly, agree with me as long as he was doing so from behind an untraceable internet handle. So much for Zuckerberg’s babbling about “integrity” there, eh?

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