The hot topic of discussion in the social web right now is Facebook’s push towards becoming a more public platform and its ‘shenanigans’ with your privacy. There is now an organised movement (QuitFacebookDay.com) that has earmarked May 31st as D-Day. For a better idea of what has changed on Facebook, I suggest you have a look at the informative graphic below. PC World has a good article that outlines Facebook’s open social strategy too.
The Open Web is The Future Web
Without a doubt, I am all for an open web. I keep my Facebook profile public and I do not shy away from sharing most parts of my life on the web. I believe the more we are willing to share, the better our experience with the web will be and the more knowledgeable and useful the internet will become. Note this: I chose to be open.
I am blogging this in response to Daphne Maia’s own post ‘Privacy Has Been Long Dead. Mark Zuckerberg Didn’t Steal It’. Daphne made some great points that I agree big-heartedly, including:
Facebook still remains a juggernaut in our lives. Our friends and family are in there and it is a great platform for businesses with over 400 million Facebook users to tap. How will we ever let go?
Facebook is a “structured blog..within a big big community” and more (eg. games, online shopping, news, etc). I agree with Daphne here that Facebook’s main draw is its blog-like feature, a space to share with people on your network. There are really an abundance of things to do on Facebook. (FarmVille anyone?)
‘Facebook users need to learn how to: exercise gumption and exercise discretion’. I agree wholeheartedly. Very important. I have seen so many sharing failures on Twitter (an even more public platform) that I sometimes wonder if people ever realised they are being watched and read.
But my stand and opinion differ from Daphne’s here on on a large part of her observation and belief. Disclaimer (if one is required): Daphne and I are friends, online and in real life. Friends can disagree, yes? :)
Not Everyone Is Schooled in Social. Open Social.
Daphne knows the value of social media, just as I do. We are communication professionals who know how to control the message. The what, where and when to let it out. We share and blog ‘smartly’, we behave appropriately online (Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, you name it, we’re on it!) and we ‘game’ the system to build our own personal brands, consciously or otherwise (Daphne on Google).
But not everyone is as well-versed as us. That is the very real reality. Despite all the goodness of being open and social online, not everyone understands it and not everyone wants it. And that is essentially a basic right of the consumer that has to be respected.
In the long run, I would love to have everyone contribute to the open web but, realistically, that time is still much far off. Lots of education and understanding is needed to move people on the same open-thinking platform, perhaps only with the next generational change even. But for now, we, marketers and communicators, must respect consumers’ rights in wanting to protect their personal profiles and data. That can only be a positive prelude to a much more open relationship with consumers in the future.
Facebook: Rogue Business Practices?
Facebook’s success is fuelled by the rate of adoption and use by the masses. It sold us the idea and premise of a “private social network” to connect with “friends and family”. It has a secured, login-required platform that even Google’s mighty spiders do not have access to. And that was the pretext of joining Facebook for most people. Share your photos and thoughts, say Facebook, and shared away we did. We did not even care if Facebook owns our data for eternity. Why? Because there was ‘CONTROL’. Easily-manipulated controls over our profiles and what was to be shared with others. (There are now 50 settings with 170 options in Facebook’ privacy settings. Can YOU figure it out?)
Daphne made a point: ‘What makes the content you publish on Facebook so differentiated (in terms of privacy) from the content you would put on your blog?’ On the contrary, THAT is exactly the reason why most people on Facebook don’t keep an open personal blog. Instead they trust Facebook to keep their sharing and profiles private within their inner circle. They add friends very very carefully. These folks want to have control over their online profiles and engagements and Facebook offered this great and innovative solution. A ‘friends and family-only’ network. We have to respect this right to remain private as much as we expect others’ not to go through our personal belongings.
The Erosion of Trust
Do you think there is a trust issue here?
In business, trust is everything. Facebook is a business. One that earns from advertisers and 3rd party developers, but the way Facebook is pushing its open social platform forward (way too prematurely, I think) in a daredevil, yet blasé manner, I am not sure if they are building upon the trust granted by its users. People are leaving already. Robert Scoble, despite his arguments for going all-out public on Facebook (with a very public profile with public data. Because Scoble does not trust Facebook with his private data), suggests splitting Facebook into two: one private and one public. Scoble obviously knows the value of trust within the every day republic. Read more on Scoble’s suggestions to Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook’s CEO)
In Facebook’s pursuit to compete with Google and Twitter (both being very public and open platforms) in chasing the advertising dollars, where, I wonder, is the respect for its users that have kept its platform alive and well? Remember, Myspace, once mighty, now languishes, feebly.
Do Not Lose Control of Your Consumer’s Rights
As the graphic illustration below shows, much has changed on Facebook. For me personally, and I agree with Daphne on this, privacy on the web remains an elusive endeavour. As long as you use somebody’s online asset, be it Google, Twitter, Hotmail, etc., your privacy remains at their mercy. Even Steve Jobs got his emails outed in public. Another thing, are we, online users, a part of a huge market research data pool for advertisers? You bet and I don’t care!
But what should remain always yours is your control over your personal profile and your data. As an online consumer, you have the right to make choices on who receives your data and who has the right to capitalise commercially on it. But should every online move we make be granularly tracked and sold on to 3rd party services without our permission? I’m not keen. Just because someone in my network is playing FarmVille does not mean Zygna (FarmVille’s developer) has the right to access my profile and those of my friends’ and family. That is an outright abuse of trust.
In fact, one of the main reason why I remain on the fence about staying put on Facebook, is that I feel uncomfortable exposing my family and friends’ privacy (those who still value them) and profile data through my very public Facebook page. I chose to be public because I believe in openness but at what cost? Now it seems being public and open is such a selfish thing to do.
So Will I be leaving Facebook too?
I don’t know as yet. I know it is hypocritical if I stick around in Facebook, but much is at stake (including my professional needs) so I would like to look at options and solutions. But for a start, I will look at how I will now interact with Facebook and how I can move my personal relationships within my network beyond Facebook.
For those who treasure and are still pursuing online privacy, Gina Trapani’s Online Privacy: Check Yourself (Before Your Wreck Yourself) is a good read and outlines what steps to take. When I get home tonight, I will be looking at the service Youropenbook.org. As explained by PC World in the article ‘Facebook Privacy: Secrets Unveiled’, there are so many personal stories, some damning, to be found on Facebook that has been publicly published, unknowingly.
But I am sure you won’t miss me if I do leave Facebook. Want to keep in touch with me? Here’s my Google public profile: http://www.google.com/profiles/isman.tanuri This is the truth, nothing but the truth.
And I’m in control.
Share your thoughts on this Facebook and privacy issue. Are you still keen on Facebook now? Which side are you on?
Graphic above originally found at: http://s3.moveon.org/images/with_dims/facebook-graphic-1.3_750x615.png (Courtesy of @lucian on Twitter)