Facebook “Privacy”

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Are you sharing more than you realise?

Almost every business we have spoken to this year wants to know how to use Social Media to market their business. It’s a powerful marketing tool, but while businesses are scrambling to get on Facebook, almost 25,000 personal users opted out on Monday due to Facebook’s seemingly casual approach to privacy. (See http://www.quitfacebookday.com)

26 year old Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg admits “I know we’ve made a bunch of mistakes, but my hope at the end of this is that the service ends up in a better place and that people understand that our intentions are in the right place and we respond to the feedback from the people we serve.”

We are at an interesting time in history, where on the one hand we have the Australian Government pushing to introduce a national Internet filter and on the other we have large corporations like Google and Facebook collecting every minute detail of our lives on the premise that their intentions are in the right place. Both scenarios are removing our right to choose.

Danah Boyd, a Microsoft researcher and top tech blogger, wrote: “The battle that is under way is not a battle over the future of privacy and publicity. It’s a battle over choice and informed consent.”

Openbook Bares All

Facebook has been in the news for most of its five short years for privacy abuse issues and it is now reaching fever pitch.

The current bone of contention with Facebook is the amount of data that it makes publicly available by default. You have to decipher their lengthy privacy area to lock down your comments and photos so only your friends can see them and not the whole world. Unfortunately, many people have no concept of how or why to do this.

Two young lads from San Francisco, Pete Burns and Will Moffatt thought it was about time this was exposed and have built a site that displays all the publicly accessible information from Facebook in a site called Openbook. It received 665,252 hits in its first weekl! Search for a key phrase and you can see all the public profiles that mention that phrase. (If you are easily offended, don’t follow the link, although the results are much less interesting than the searches.) Read more about Openbook here.

Burns and Moffatt think Facebook should take more responsibility for the privacy of its’ customers by educating us and making it easy to use. This is their proposal:

  • Make it easy to control and understand your privacy settings.
  • Promise that they won’t change them behind your back.
  • Make new accounts private by default.

Doesn’t sound that difficult for a $5+billion company.

What Can We Do?

When things go wrong, the finger pointing begins, but for the same reason the Internet filter is ridiculous, blaming Facebook for loosing your job/girlfriend/dignity is equally so. As the Openbook guys have demonstrated, Facebook definitely needs to help us help ourselves, but ultimately, our privacy is our responsibility.

Unfortunately, the very reason these behemoth web services are a success is the intimate nature of the data we share. And, for this reason, they also make very effective marketing tools. Social sites are here to stay for good or bad. When Facebook eventually meets its’ sticky end, something else even more engaging and insidious will replace it.

As consumers, we need to get smart with how we use the Internet because the law certainly can’t keep up and  Facebook offers no legal or police assistance.

5 Step Internet Privacy Guide

All online communication should be treated as ‘public’. Whether its email, social sites or instant messaging, all of it can be made public in just a few clicks.

  1. If you share private things, do it offline.
  2. If you don’t want to be found, stalked or spied upon, don’t use your real name, age or contact details online
  3. Get a lot of spam? Try using a temporary email address – http://www.guerrillamail.com
  4. If you think Facebook is using your details wrongly, opt out. Go to Account / Account Settings / Deactivate Account
  5. If you think the Australian Internet filter is a bad idea, say so – http://nocleanfeed.com

Watch the Facebook Trends

A look at last week’s headlines shows the trend:

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