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The deal with Facebook privacy changes and the future of social networking

I feel that the new kind of changes Facebook introduced are a really big deal for everyone and our future, not just at Facebook but for any kind of social media. They didn't do well introducing them, which they're now comfortable saying. Also, there might be some positions which people of good will might find debatable, but reasonable people can disagree and compromise.

There were some genuine blunders, like a bug in advertiser-related code, fixed quickly, and which were misreported in the press.

My take is that the big problem has to do with explanations that didn't do any explaining.

Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

This is my attempt to simplify and reset the discussion.

Attitude: 1) treat others like you want to be treated. 2) Now and then, give the other person a break. (aka "you are your brother's/sister's keeper.")

That is, we should all play well with others. Be nice.

Here's my take on the thing, written from a customer service perspective, looking from the bottom up. Keep in mind that when I say "Facebook" I'm also thinking "any social networking platform."

Online social networking is in the same spirit as everyday, real life, people talking to people.

However, the online part also means that you carry with you a pretty heavy identity, including who your friends are, the friends of your friends, your tastes and other history. Also, it means that maybe your extended friends of friends network might be able to see more about you than you know. Online also means that disinformation, like planted rumors, can spread pretty fast, and people still fall for that.

Trying to keep things simple… the networking world is about people, groups of people, and stuff they want to talk about.

People have identities, sometimes called "profiles", and groups and companies, etc, can also have similar identities.

People have friends, who in turn, have friends, eventually connecting everyone. That extended kind of network is called a "social graph", where "graph" is an unnecessarily technical term that's a pain in the butt.

There are other people out there who you don't know, but who might be providing goods and services that they might want to sell you. Maybe we need a term for them that's catchy, just for discussion, like "strangers" since at first, we don't know 'em. (I'd like a better term.)

Privacy is a big deal here, since you might want to disclose personal stuff only to friends, and for sure, you want to control what advertisers see about you.

Note that there's a generation gap regarding privacy. People of my advanced years are pretty private regarding personal stuff, but I hear that the youngsters, particularly Millenials, are pretty open about everything. We need the tools to make nearly everyone happy, and to keep it simple.

So, you might want a privacy user interface that starts simple, like either choosing to reveal all or nothing. More realistically, maybe it should default to asking you what you should automatically reveal to friends, friends of friends, or strangers.

Then, if you want, you can fine tune who can see what.

I believe Facebook's moving in this direction.

Now, let's suppose you want to engage a stranger or they want to engage you, like you visit their site, or maybe they want to place an ad on your feed. Better service means tailoring the engagement with personal info about you.

To play fair and to show respect, I feel that they should ask what's okay with you. That means a little software which asks your profile for pertinent personal data, like:

– Hey, do you have default privacy settings which already give permission to get that personal data?

– If not, the stranger needs to ask, maybe via popup, hey, can I access some specific personal data? In return, I can provide better service to you.

The deal is that you decide. It's extra work, and you can always say no. Sometimes, it'll be
Fb worth saying yes.

The software which does the actual request would have to be from Facebook, to ensure security and safety of your stuff.

Facebook advertising is a special case, where ads are shown to you based on aggregate demographic and self-reported information like your likes and interests. [that's a correction] Your information is NOT disclosed to advertisers. However, there's was a bug for a brief time in which something was accidentally disclosed, and fixed. This was not reported accurately in the media, and greatly overblown.

There're social contracts here, probably enforceable legally, like Facebook has to agree to share only with your informed consent, and that strangers can share only with your informed consent.

So, the deal is that you get to share personal data only when you want to, maybe to get better service. That means like seeing only ads that you might be interested in, or maybe getting the news and weather that means anything to you.

All this means is that you get to connect to way more people and strangers than you can in everyday life, but we all gotta play well with each other.

Be nice.

Tags: , | 13 Responses »

13 Responses to The deal with Facebook privacy changes and the future of social networking

Adrian Scott says:

I think people have already given Facebook the benefit of the doubt repeated times and are sick of Facebook abusing that trust.
Facebook's actions tend to force people to be more 'open' than they are comfortable with, not a good thing.
Facebook deleted all of my profile info from being available because I didn't want it to become part of their advertising-oriented like pages. That's pretty crappy customer service, deleting my profile info.
They've clearly established that their brand is about making people uncomfortable and subject to being forced to being more open that they'd like to be.
My $0.02, thanks for writing up your thoughts.
-A

Gwynnek says:

Thanks, Craig. I think you hit all of the major points in a reasoned way. I would like to offer, tho, that young people do care about their privacy, just differently than their parents.
My kids and their friends are well-aware of sharing their info, have become more cautious in accepting friends (used to be anyone who asked was in), and battening down the hatches against moms, dads and future employers.
How they differ is they don't see their future footprint. But this dust up by Facebook is certainly making them more aware.
Great points! be well.

files says:

I've seen this issue discussed first on yahoo news and then followed some discussion on blogs/forums. it is a necessary issue, if they want to keep the trust of users. the implementation of ssl by google is also widely discussed…

Sanjay Maharaj says:

Craig
DO you think that Facebook tries to test the and push thelimits each time they introduce new privacy tools with the hope that if users do not complain Facebook will let it slide and use it to monitize the user base further. Have they not leanrt from past mistakes, Beacon comes to mind
I really do think that thses things are being done intentionally and now that the users have revolted, they are backtracking

twodogkd says:

I do not give my name, real birthday or even my gender.
Think I may have gotten a facebook page under one of my emails, but cannot recall which and cannot recall what dummy information I gave.
I do not want information about me to be linked up and matched up, cross indexed and crossed referenced.
I do not need porno or viagra or connections with this or that woman if they think I am male.
Consequently I am unable to get information on facebook and do not use facebook, . . .
Also I do not want everyone knowing if I am "online"
I do not want, when I open my email being asked what I am doing.
I find the whole mess invasive.
Facebook should have public pages which anyone can see without being a member (if the user so chooses), and private pages which only folks you wish to see those pages.
I am wondering many, if any, identity theft cases are associated with Facebook.

twodogkd says:

Should also say I hesitiated for a long time in the early days on Craigslist before I ever receive a handle.
I did not know what would be required to get a handle and did not want to give out personal information, particularly lots of personal information to do so.
That said, CL is great as you only need your email, the handle name you make up, and the secret code you make up to use Craigslist.
As a result I encourage folks to get cl accounts, if they need to post say Event ads or community items, or for some cl discussion forums.
I do caution, or try to remind folks that the discussion forum info is accessible essentially forever.

Andrew says:

The most telling thing about Facebook's default settings for privacy is how few of facebook's top employees actually use the defaults.
Today's youth actually care MORE about privacy than older generations. See this post from Danah Boyd or any of her other well-researched essays on privacy:
http://www.danah.org/papers/talks/2010/SXSW2010.html
http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2010/05/26/pew-research-confirms-that-youth-care-about-their-reputation.html
http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2010/05/14/facebook-and-radical-transparency-a-rant.html
http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/?s=privacy
Aside from poor defaults, the biggest problem with facebook's privacy settings is that the large majority of users perception of which parts of their information is available to whom does not match the reality of the multitude of facebook privacy settings.