Everybody is mad at Facebook for destroying privacy all the way across the Internet. Here’s the thing though, they’ve recently had this meeting, right? You’ve probably heard about it. Only two things appear to have come out of this meeting so far, and neither address the issue at hand.
In essence, the two new tools described here allow you to give specific devices (your phone, work computer, and home computer for instance) the authority to log-in to your Facebook account. While this is fantastic for account hacking prevention, and are therefore important for privacy, they’re barely related to the reasons an angry mob has formed at Facebook’s gates.
My rant after the jump.
People are actually concerned about the lack of granular control over who gets to see the information you willingly publish to Facebook. YourOpenBook.org is a particularly (and intentionally) impressive example of just how easily this lack of control is exploited – in this case, for the amusement of others.
Personally, I have a very open and transparent profile – and I like it that way. I don’t entirely understand the people who are happy to publish any old embarrassing nonsense to an unprotected Twitter stream, and then complain that Facebook is sharing their information. However, that’s my decision, and it’s lucky that my decision is aligned with Facebook’s way of doing things, or I’d probably be one of the many members of the angry mob.
So the question here is – why isn’t Facebook dealing with the issue at hand? Probably because the more that people lock down their personal information, likes and… oh wait, no dislike button. Right, well, the more information that’s locked down the less of it they can sell to business partners, and the more difficult it becomes for advertisers to target specific audiences. Essentially making the free service less useful for the people that are actually giving it money.
There could be ways around this – allowing privacy controls that mean individuals cannot see X info, while still allowing the information to be seen internally by their targeted advertising systems for instance… but how long until people demand they lock down that as well? And then what do they do? It’s far more profitable for them to keep everyone’s profile as open as possible.
Obviously, they need to find a happy medium of some kind and they’re hoping that the announcement of these new options will do it. The thing that really gets me here though, is the implied assumption that their users are stupid.
By releasing a set of tools that solve a less significant issue in the minds of many, they seem to be hoping that people will forget about their other, larger, more vehement complaints. I’m barely even interested in the power to lock off my profile, and I’m offended so I can’t even begin to imagine how some of the people that are already angry must feel. Maybe the use of the word “cunning” in the title was a bit over the top, but hey, Randal Graves is awesome.
So here’s hoping that there’s more to come out of this “emergency privacy meeting” that simply hasn’t been announced yet. Facebook have to address the issues eventually, or something like Diaspora (which will be another post altogether) is going to steal their masses.