Facebook and the Privacy thing
Facebook is popular, very popular. It has over 400 active million users, 50% of these users ‘facebook’ at least once every day. That’s impressive. If Facebook is that huge how come it’s so casual on privacy?
Do those who embrace Facebook not care much about their personal privacy? Do those behind the scenes at Facebook then exploit this relaxed attitude in order to further link up people socially? Do Facebook not care about their users’ privacy? Is there something else accounting for the Facebook approach to personal privacy?
At the moment the jury is out on Open Graph. In essence, if you’re merrily surfing the net and come across something you like, and that has the thumbs-up “Like” option on it, you can choose to click on this Like button. This action is fed back to your Facebook page. It is also kept by the website you visit. When your Facebook friends visit that site they are notified that you’ve already been there and liked it. Is this a good thing?
Yes, it enhances the social web but is it too much? Do you want your Facebook friends to know that you went on an Icelandic website to learn the correct pronunciation of Eyjafjallajokull. Does a wife want to know that her husband ‘likes’ dodgy websites? Perhaps she does, but that’s not the point.
The point is that this is yet another example of the end user not being given the option to opt in or out. People are not given the choice to say no if they want to say no. People are not given the choice to say yes if they want to say yes.
To this end, an article by PC World should be compulsory reading for all 400 million people on Facebook. The author goes step-by-step through the required procedure to take back control over your Facebook settings. It shows where to look for those settings that govern your privacy and to turn them off if that is what you want.
Some of the Facebook ventures are interesting. The Docs application is particularly appealing. Users can “discover, create and share” MS-type documents. This has exciting potential for us educators. If there are privacy concerns will educators rush to explore it? In some cases, perhaps not.
By not giving people control over how social they want to be online, Facebook could find those masses of users dropping off. Of course, no-one is forcing anyone to ‘like’ anything. No one is forcing anyone to click that button.