Bait and Switch? Facebook: Say Goodbye to Your Privacy

Read Write Web wrote up a great piece entitled, "Facebook's Zuckerberg Says The Age of Privacy is Over." Here's some excerpts:

In a six-minute interview on stage, [Mark] Zuckerberg spent 60 seconds talking about Facebook's privacy policies. His statements were of major importance for the world's largest social network - and his arguments in favor of an about-face on privacy deserve close scrutiny.

Zuckerberg offered roughly 8 sentences in response to a question about where privacy was going on Facebook and around the web. The question was referencing the changes Facebook underwent last month. Your name, profile picture, gender, current city, networks, Friends List, and all the pages you subscribe to are now publicly available information on Facebook. This means everyone on the web can see it; it is searchable.

"When I got started in my dorm room at Harvard, the question a lot of people asked was 'why would I want to put any information on the Internet at all? Why would I want to have a website?'

"And then in the last 5 or 6 years, blogging has taken off in a huge way and all these different services that have people sharing all this information. People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.

"We view it as our role in the system to constantly be innovating and be updating what our system is to reflect what the current social norms are.

"A lot of companies would be trapped by the conventions and their legacies of what they've built, doing a privacy change - doing a privacy change for 350 million users is not the kind of thing that a lot of companies would do. But we viewed that as a really important thing, to always keep a beginner's mind and what would we do if we were starting the company now and we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it."
This is a radical change from the way that Zuckerberg pounded on the importance of user privacy for years. That your information would only be visible to the people you accept as friends was fundamental to the DNA of the social network that hundreds of millions of people have joined over these past few years. Privacy control, he told me less than 2 years ago, is "the vector around which Facebook operates."

I don't buy Zuckerberg's argument that Facebook is now only reflecting the changes that society is undergoing. I think Facebook itself is a major agent of social change and by acting otherwise Zuckerberg is being arrogant and condescending.

....The way the company is going about it makes me....uncomfortable....and some of the changes are clearly bad.  It is clearly bad to no longer allow people to keep the pages they subscribe to private on Facebook.

This major reversal, backed-up by superficial explanations, makes me wonder if Facebook's changing philosophies about privacy are just convenient stories to tell while the company shifts its strategy to exert control over the future of the web.
First the company kept user data siloed inside its site alone, saying that a high degree of user privacy would make users comfortable enough to share more information with a smaller number of trusted people.
Now that it has 350 million people signed up and connected to their friends and family in a way they never have been before - now Facebook decides that the initial, privacy-centric, contract with users is out of date. That users actually want to share openly, with the world at large, and incidentally (as Facebook's Director of Public Policy Barry Schnitt told us in December) that it's time for increased pageviews and advertising revenue, too.....The company's justifications of the claim that they are reflecting broader social trends just aren't credible...
The JIDF has been addressing Facebook's dishonesty, double-standards, hypocrisy, and arrogance for a long time now.  It's becoming very clear that many people are fed up with Facebook and are just waiting for the Facebook killer to come along.  The best part of the aforementioned piece were some of the comments to it:
Did I read that right? Did I read a comparison of the web as a whole to reality television?  It appears that they haven't learned from the old-school MySpace debacle. It's only a matter of time before this social empire they've created crumbles now.
Posted by: Adrian

What else would you expect from somebody his age who has investors who have thrown a ton of money at Facebook breathing down his neck?  I predict (again) that the age of Facebook will be over within a few years.
Posted by: Dawn

Stupid move. Privacy is a right in many countries.  Great news for those with what they hope are Facebook-killers, just add Privacy and you could be on a winner.  Facebook only want less Privacy so they can sell your data, it's become one big spam machine.
 Posted by: scientaestubique

I am very much interested to see where Facebook takes us this year because I believe they are just a few steps away from losing it all despite their numbers. We have tons of alternatives Foursquare, Myspace, Teitter, they better be watching their steps.
 Posted by: Cole Watts

Facebook has become arrogant - arrogance comes before a fall.  on the positive side - just opening up opportunities for others.
Posted by: Walter Pike 

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