The conspiracy theorists among us—and who isn't lately?—believe Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg suckered most persons in the civilized world into revealing our every lofty hope, filthy desire and gnawing fear on his website, and then turned all the information over to corporate marketers to take whatever advantage they can.
Which, technically, is true.
But a sentence in Zuckerberg's apologetic op-ed yesterday revealed that another factor is at work here. Regarding the recent disastrous privacy policies, Zuckerberg said, "Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted."
Granular controls? No, I don't want granular controls. I don't know anyone who wants granular controls.
The conventional thinker will leap to say Zuckerberg should have done focus groups to see what people thought of his policy.
I will leap back and say, If you need focus groups to tell you that the average overworked, overwhelmed, information-overloaded American doesn't want "granular control" of his or her privacy settings, you're too geeky to be trusted to run anything nearly as socially important as Facebook has become.
I'm not quitting Facebook, but I am hoping its leaders somehow get replaced by people who know more about human beings than this Asberger Zuckerman.
Joan H. says
I found this interesting: “Washington Post Chairman Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.” Wouldn’t you think that the chair of a newspaper with circulation like the Washington Post would be thinking more about privacy? Given the activities of many of my FB friends, who often share links to news articles, it seems like newspapers would embrace FB as a way to increase exposure and interest, thus an audience to protect. My under-caffeinated thought process is a little slow this morning, but it’s leading to this: FB rarely announces in a clear fashion what it’s doing when it adjusts privacy settings. I generally discover through FB friends that I need yet again to go restrict privacy settings so as not to reveal to the world at large more than I intend. (And even then, I’m not entirely certain about how many people can see it; can all the friends of all the friends of all my friends view it? Or just my immediate circle of friends?)
All to say that I’d expect more of the chair of the Washington Post, even if I can’t rely on this young geeky boy who created FB.
I’m a fan of Facebook, because it has allowed me to not only connect with, but stay regularly in touch with, people I would never, EVER, have been able to do so with any other way.
I also do not approve ANY of the third-party apps. to do silly quizzes, or join “Farmville”, “Mafiaworld” or any of the other nebulous [not to mention stupid] cutesy things where you have no idea who can then look at what’s on your page after you’ve clicked “allow”.
Finally, I only have people I actually KNOW as friends. I don’t accept or send friend requests just to get a higher number of friends. I use FB to connect with or stay connected with actual friends.
It is possible to protect some of your privacy on Facebook although not ALL – when you share info on the internet, you do take some risk. But it takes work to be knowledgeable about the privacy issue, and I think we now all know that Facebook and Zuckerberg are not going to do it for us. We need to go back to the old “Caveat Emptor” thing and take responsibility for what we share and where we share it.
Joan H. says
So how often do you think we should check to see whether they’ve changed our settings, Kristen? My experience to date has been that, like you, I take the time to go set everything just the way I want it, and then Facebook changes things up without notifying us. As I said earlier, I discover through vigilant friends’ posts that once again Facebook has made privacy changes, and unless I go through the whole exercise again, I’m exposing information I don’t want to.
Reasonable notification with clear explanations would go a long way toward building trust with FB’s creators/administrators.
By the way, an apparently credible way to test your settings (at least as far as my web research can establish) is available at http://www.reclaimprivacy.org, which will scan your settings and let you know which of them need tweaking.
Joan – I believe [and this is my own personal opinion] that the two most important things to do to protect your privacy on Facebook are: 1) to have all areas of your page set to “friends only”; and to not accept/allow ANY of the third-party applications access to your information. None of the other changes Facebook has made have affected my privacy settings in a negative way. Whatever I had set to “friends only” has stayed “friends only” throughout all these shenanigans. The big risks are affecting people who have a great deal of the information on their pages set to “everyone”.
I, too have seen messages from FB friends when new privacy things pop up, and every time I check my page settings against these various websites that people have created to “test” what FB is sharing about users, and purport to show what is publicly available on your page, my page has turned up as pretty protected, and in the areas where I am sharing information [very limited] I am aware of the access and okay with that.
Of course, the choices I have made about my page settings absolutely do limit the opportunities for outside, and unsolicited contacts and connections to reach me, so if those kinds of contacts are important to you, then my approach probably will not meet your needs. I have made a conscious choice to be very restrictive about the infomration on my FB page.
If, on the other hand, you already know very clearly whom you want to connect with, and how you want them to be able to interact with you, then the two items above will will go a long way in protecting your privacy.
I do not for one moment believe that Facebook has any intention – now or in the future – of delivering “reasonable notification with clear explanations” to its users. The monetization of Facebook requires that they be able to provide useful information to the advertisers, sellers, and other schemes that want to tap the multi-millions of potential consumers the users of Facebook represent.
So, ultimately, it is up to us as the voluntary users of the site, and the owners of our own information to take the responsibility onto ourselves to aggressively protect our own privacy. Facebook, much like Wal-Mart [sorry, another of my pet peeves!] has its uses, but is not the benign outfit they would like to portray themselves as. It has to be up to each of us to protect ourselves by remaining vigilent.
Okay, I’m getting down off my soapbox now. Speech concluded. Please feel free to return to your regularly scheduled programming! 😉
Tim H says
Fascist thief communist Taliban terrorist moinster evil underminer of society and probably a molester … or just a leadership team that doesn’t think things through very well?
I think the current environment has us all jumping very quickly to extremes of judgment.
But if he doesn’t start to listen and do better, then we should indeed extreme away on him.
Yossi Mandel says
David, Microsoft hasn’t replaced Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer, and Apple tried with Steve Jobs and would never do that again. We live in their world, not they in ours. We’re stuck with them.
Then again, maybe BP could have used a few geeky engineers who would have worried about “granular control” of certain safety valves and procedures.
David Murray says
And, the mea culpa.