After an email to Robert Scoble, Mark Zuckerberg has written an oped for the Washington Post. He is going into detail about what they have learned and what they will change in te coming days/weeks.
Sadly he is missing out the biggest problem the diggerati who have left, e.g. Leo Laporte or Jason Calacanis (ok ok, also done for marketing purposes, but that’s just Jason ) or Ryan Block, have. The problem is the steady and slow erosion of privacy.
What once was, no longer is just for friends. Just take a look at this fun post showing how the defaults have changed.
And that is the true problem. The defaults are changing. Actually they are not changing so much in Germany where all the recent changes were all opt-in, but that is more in relation to the flack Facebook got in recent weeks here.
All I really want is to share stuff with family and friends and keep everyone else out. Sure people can find me via my name or email, but that does not mean it needs to be shared, just to be found when searched for. But why is my friendslist public or my likes? I don’t understand. Just check out FB Privacy Checker. It will ask you to log in, but more or less to just know who you are on Facebook, getting your user id. They just want access to your public information.
So now check what the Privacy Checker shows me.
Scary isn’t it? I’d love for somebody to prove me wrong and show me the privacy settings to change that. I actually don’t even want to show up on somebody else’s friends list. If I ever plan to share my friends list with the public it will be with people who also do that and on my own site based on open standards.
Hence my privacy settings are easy. Everything friends only please. Give me a like button on a website but it should only tell my friends I liked something and not the website or some public.
These thoughts and more actually resulted in an interesting conversation I had with @taospace about why we have the problems we do with facebook and not with google. I still suggest you read Jeff Jarvis’ post on defining “a public” as people use in facebook.
Here is that conversation:
- othylmann: I sadly doubt facebook can do the right thing as long as their business is advertising and our data is perceived as valuable for that.
- taospace: Yes. Now substitute Google for Facebook and it’s even more scary.
- othylmann: the difference is that google needs to get content online and this means working with us all. More content = more ads = more money
- othylmann: for facebook the don’t have this logical chain. More users just means more costs. Unless they can use their information.
- taospace: Very good point. Still people are trusting Google to handle their content (mail, docs) for free as well so there is some of that.
- othylmann: yes and no. They do not have to break our trust to make money. Facebook currently has to because they need to use the data for ads
- taospace: Google infers Facebook-style info too. No need for permission that way. Why wouldn’t they use it for growing revenue?
- othylmann: my social contract with google is different and they need my content and behaviour more than my private data.
- taospace: But doesn’t that just mean Google is smarter about doing the same thing but ends up in the same place all the same?
- taospace: Agree that FB has no choice. I think Google will end up there as well, purely through market forces.
- othylmann: google is organizing information. Facebook was mention to allow me to connect to friends and family. Adv. has no business there
- othylmann: google will try to make sure that whatever profile we gave with google is the information we are willing to share publically.
- taospace: True, but content+behaviour leads to mostly same data as FB’s. You+me see different social contract, but what about Joe Average?
- taospace: Adv. has no business in private data, agreed. Users perception of what is considered private is a problem though.
- othylmann: they see that even more. Ask your wife if she wants goog profile, whether she believes all her likes and friends in fb are public
- othylmann: and that’s the thing. In fb you believe stuff is private and not shared with advertisers. But yes there is a lot of learning to do
- taospace: If she is told what info is public she’ll of course be upset. If she was told what info is inferred she’d be just as upset.
- othylmann: possibly but I am not sure. But yes, that will still lead to problem for google eventually. But it’s in their interest to be nice
This also lead to a side conversation on launching a new social network and whether people would be paying to keep their data private and not having you rely on advertising. This again turned into a bit of a discussion of how much people value their privacy, but that again is another post.
All in all, it should be clear that I have been thinking about this and am very much with Jeff Jarvis on some points and with Thijs obviously with whom I had many great conversations about these fun subjects. This is tricky but Facebook needs to open up to monetize (or so they believe) and this goes against what they want out to do.
Of course as Mark points out in his WaPo piece: If people share more, the world will become more open and connected.
So we really shouldn’t be suprised if stuff on facebook is suddenly public. Take a look at Evil which samples public cell phone numbers from facebook, something the users surely didn’t intend to do. Maybe I should really delete my Facebook account afterall. Not to protect myself but to protect those of my friends that are less tech savvy. The problem is that at least for friends I would need an alternative. Currently none exists that is truly closed and private short of installing my own Noserub instanz.
Oh, and while we are at it, what about this? Removing stuff from Facebook that says how to delete an account? Read the comments people.
Never mind. This is complicated. I am really looking forward to what Facebook suggests the solution is. I want stuff closed damn it. That is what Facebook was about. Public stuff goes on Twitter, Public Profile on my Homepage.