Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What Is The Privacy Issue With Facebook?

For the past week or so, I kept hearing about Facebook and their privacy issues. Early complaints state that user information gets shared with third-party companies or posted in places where individuals do not have control.

My first reaction to the stream of complaints was that posting information on the web is a personal choice. Knowing this information will become public, I can chose to post or not.

When I asked users on Facebook what they thought about the privacy issue, I received the following responses:
I'm not concerned with facebook's privacy issues. Frankly, I don't see what the big fuss is about.  If someone really wants to get in your business, they will find a way. ~ Marianne H.
If you want privacy then don't post on public sites or places that there's a chance of it being public. If i want it private then use snail mail. ~ Richard L.
Facebook will push the envelope to the point we have no choice. ~ Lisa S.
I think everyone has grown accustomed to sharing their lives with the family and friends via facebook or myspace. ~ Danni P.
Clearly, there are those who feel the way I do about Facebook and its current practices. However, after reading Lisa Sullivan's blog post, What is It About Facebook and Privacy?, that I understood where many find fault. Lisa writes:
Take for instance the Open Graph format. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you should be aware that sites like CNN have begun to roll out a feature that will allow you to connect to Facebook via a “like” button, which basically means if you “like” a certain article and you press that button, it will post to your wall.
Will they [Facebook's third-party developers] have a built-in to it’s application that allows me to opt-out if I don’t want that information blasted everywhere? Somehow I highly doubt it. Quite frankly, I think for Facebook it’s all about what they seem to think the majority of the public wants.
Essentially, Lisa argues that users want more control over who can see their "Likes." If we use Foursquare as an example, users can check-in and decide whether this location should show to friends on Foursquare, Twitter, or Facebook. As it stands today, Facebook does not allow this level of control, but maybe they should.

To suggest that Facebook users stop posting status updates or clicking on the "Like" button is not an acceptable answer. However, until current users make life difficult for Facebook, these sort of changes may not come anytime soon.

Personally, I don't see the request as a big deal. That is unless Facebook seeks to open all areas of its site to the public in an effort to compete with Google and Twitter.

What do you think?

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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