You could not have missed all the well meaning tips about your facebook privacy settings. With the like button and the open graph protocol, Facebook is betting on making the internet a facebook based ecosystem. Users are part of this ecosystem and their behaviour can now be shared with others, even beyond facebook. As an example, if you ‘like’ something on TED your facebook friends can know what you ‘liked’ when they visit TED. What does it mean for users privacy? Well, users are responsible for their privacy. Pretty tame concept if you ask me.
Matt Cutts and fellow google engineers deleted their facebook accounts, a slew of big bloggers recently did the same. The apparent lack of openness in the open graph concept along with privacy issues are often cited as the leading reasons for these extreme behaviours.
Without dissecting the pros and cons any further, any internet user should know that ANYTHING posted online is NOT private, especially not on facebook. For example, I recently posted photographs of my kids on my facebook album. Even though I do not mention my kids names, it would be unrealistic of me to expect that others would comment on the photographs without mentioning their names. I did recognize the implications before posting. However, a majority of users are unaware that anything they post could be available to the ‘friends of friends’. Maybe there is a risk involved in someone you don’t know having the name and picture of your child.
Beyond security implications, it is now common knowledge that your facebook behaviour can affect your professional standing, especially if your colleagues/ associates, client or boss is your facebook ‘friend’. Choosing your ‘friends’ wisely holds true even on facebook. Social media can be a great tool to get you into a job as well as out of one. That ‘tame’ concept of user responsibility surfaces again.
As for privacy, the internet has brought the concept of a ‘free lunch’ within reach. The sense of entitlement over access to information at no cost has never been stronger. ‘Heck no, I’m not going to pay a dollar or two a month for my facebook account’ but ‘yes I want facebook to guarantee my privacy and be able to upload a gazillion of my photos’. Guess what folks? If the talented developers and content (including online publication content) creators out there cannot get paid you will not have access to their content and tools. Before Facebook runs out of cash and investors, it has to find ways to be profitable. Even the best investor driven ‘Ponzi Scheme’ can last only so long. The negative press and rising user backlash (especially from some early adopters who are now trying to reclaim their privacy) could expedite the fall of the online empire that Mark built. Hollywood is contributing by apparently painting founder Mark Zuckerberg as a sex crazed control freak in an upcoming flick the ‘Social Network‘. The opposite direction of Zuckerbergs recent efforts at an image revamp. He should know that sex sells though, porn is after all one of the most popular online activities.
It’s a good thing for Zuckerberg that 500 plus million users need their facebook fix in varying doses. His invention seems to now be an integral part of our social interactions. It can then be suggested that facebook is adding some value to our lives. However, if facebook cannot provide similar value to advertisers by telling them what we ‘like’ or don’t ‘like’, then we may end up having to pay for our facebook accounts. At least, until the next ‘free lunch’ that we are entitled to comes along.