Friday, May 14, 2010

All of a Sudden, It's All About Privacy

My feelings towards Facebook are fairly well documented and quite widely known.  And as much as I would love to see it go down the drain, I have to admit that I am growing more skeptical that it is ever going to go the way of Myspace.

One of the reasons I have always felt the way I feel towards Facebook is their handling of privacy.  Which unless you've been living under a rock, has been the big subject this week.  Because I love his blog, I'll point you to George Parker's (warning, language) summary here.  I should also mention that some of my favorite podcasts had AMAZING discussions on the matter that are well worth a listen if you'd like to hear some highly informed and well thought out discussion on the issues.  Here is the best one I listened to this week.  Take the time and listen for SURE.

Privacy on Facebook tends not to be a huge issue for me personally because I have always been careful with my privacy settings.  I don't share many of my albums, I have my profile fairly well locked down (my gf complains about this often) and I generally review my settings often to make sure they are the way I want them.  I am also fairly vocal to my friends about Facebook privacy and like to remind them to review their settings.

The summary of my position at this point is this:  I think Facebook's approach to privacy (catering to the lower common denominator) is dangerous and wrong but the average person doesn't know enough or even care enough to leave the platform.  This means that while everyone will grumble, it will in the long run blow over.

At the same time, I think Facebook has stepped into a hornet's nest  and it better be careful how it walks in the future.   If the management is smart, they will take this as a wake up call.

The reason I say this is that until very recently, much of the chatter was kept inside "tech" circles and didn't really get heard by the general population that made up the bulk of Facebook users but I think that this is about to change.

Supposed transcripts of chats make for great stories and it is only a matter of time before the issue of Facebook's maverick approach to privacy is something that everyone knows about.  Even more importantly, it may soon be something the people that are NOT on Facebook hear about and something causes those on Facebook to leave.

The world we live in is changing.  Our lives are becoming increasingly shared and digital and for the longest amount of time, people's expectations of privacy had not caught up.

If you ask me, the winds of change are blowing and the only question now is where everyone will end up.

UPDATE: Here's a story from the BBC about Facebook calling an all-employees meeting on the issue.... so maybe they are listening.

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