It might be handy to keep my bookmarked articles about Facebook’s recent troubles regarding the backlash against their heavy-handed and arrogant approach to their members’ privacy. These are roughly in chronological order, starting on May 7th:
- May 7, 2010 — Wired kicks things off with “Facebook’s Gone Rogue; It’s Time for an Open Alternative”. Best lines:
Facebook thinks that your notions of privacy — meaning your ability to control information about yourself — are just plain old-fashioned. Head honcho Zuckerberg told a live audience in January that Facebook is simply responding to changes in privacy mores, not changing them — a convenient, but frankly untrue, statement… In Facebook’s view, everything (save perhaps your e-mail address) should be public. Funny too about that e-mail address, for Facebook would prefer you to use its e-mail–like system that censors the messages sent between users….
I’d like to make my friend list private. Cannot.
I’d like to have my profile visible only to my friends, not my boss. Cannot.
I’d like to support an anti-abortion group without my mother or the world knowing. Cannot.
- “Facebook Executive Answers Reader Questions” — The New York Times publishes Elliot Schrage’s answers to readers’ questions about Facebook privacy (Schrage is vp for public policy at Facebook).
- May 11 — I deactivate my Facebook account.
- Why I’ve (re)joined the 6,400,000,000 people who aren’t on Facebook, my post explaining my reasons for deactivating my Facebook account.
- The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook — an infographic showing changes over time in Facebook’s privacy settings.
- Leo Laporte publically leaves Facebook. (But he likes Google Buzz, so what does he know?
- “Facebook Privacy: A Bewildering Tangle of Options”, The New York Times publishes an infographic depicting Facebook’s Byzantine configuration options. Money quote: “Everything is opt-in on Facebook”; in the limited sense that if you opt-in to Facebook at all, then it’s open season on you and your privacy, in other words. The mind boggles. (I especially liked John Gruber’s response to this article: “Or you can manage it my way, by never having signed up for it.”)
- Diaspora, an open, distributed (vaporware) alternative to Facebook gets a lot of attention and some funding for their project. Keep an eye on this one.
- Facebook and “radical transparency” (a rant) by danah boyd of apophenia. Favorite quote:
What I find most fascinating in all of the discussions of transparency is the lack of transparency by Facebook itself.
Boyd puts her finger on Facebook’s core issue, for me:
A while back, I was talking with a teenage girl about her privacy settings and noticed that she had made lots of content available to friends-of-friends. I asked her if she made her content available to her mother. She responded with, “of course not!” I had noticed that she had listed her aunt as a friend of hers and so I surfed with her to her aunt’s page and pointed out that her mother was a friend of her aunt, thus a friend-of-a-friend. She was horrified. It had never dawned on her that her mother might be included in that grouping.
If too many people come to this realization, Facebook’s in serious trouble.
- TidBITs, the venerable Mac-focused tech journal, publishes “How to Protect Your Privacy from Facebook”
A friend of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg asked him, back in 2004, after the 19-year-old had casually mentioned in an online conversation that 4,000 people had uploaded their personal information to his fledgling website: “How did you manage that?” He typed back: “They just submitted it. I don’t know why. They ‘trust me’,” then indiscreetly described them as “dumbfucks”.
- A bookmarklet that can scan your Facebook account‘s privacy settings is launched.
- quitfacebookday.com launches.
- From Facebook, answering privacy concerns with new settings, Mark Zuckerberg’s Washington Post op-ed in which he says he’s sorry. He also writes to Scoble.
- Adopted children face anguish as birth parents stalk them on Facebook — in case anyone doubts that people have good reasons to care about their privacy.
- Tim O’Reilly’s “My Contrarian Stance on Facebook and Privacy” — he’s willing to give Facebook a chance, for now.
- Macworld Quit Facebook Day was a success even as it flopped | Security
Put me down as unimpressed.
It has been suggested that Facebook will be regulated, and that might make everything okay. The oil industry is regulated; how’s that working out?
I don’t actually expect Facebook to make any serious, long-term improvements to privacy. It’s in their members’ interest for them to do so, but it opposes their own financial interests. Guess which will win? I don’t expect many people will abandon their accounts over this, either. It has long been shown that people don’t value their privacy, and Facebook knows this.