Facebook, Privacy and the Wild Wild Web

Facebook auto liker unveiled several changes to its service that give users more sharing options, but in the process the company demonstrated what many have come to believe is its intentional disregard for user privacy.

This mistake feels a lot like Facebook’s February 2009 debacle when the company changed its user agreement in an “all take, no give” arrangement that gave the company the right to use, in perpetuity, all information shared by its users on the site. Users rebelled and Facebook backed down immediately.

But this time it’s different. With these recent updates, Facebook has given users two important things: Easier ways to share and participate among communities of interest within the network and more privacy and protection settings to accommodate this new structure.

Facebook’s mistake is two-fold. First, the default privacy settings for the new Facebook are not Friends, Friends of Friends, or all of Facebook, but the entire Internet. Second, Facebook has provided no easy road map for just how to navigate to the 50 privacy settings in order to choose from among the more than 170 privacy options.

Users’ confusion over the default settings and how to change them, along with lackluster explanations of the benefits of the new changes, has created the usual uproar we’ve come to expect each time Facebook tweaks our home away from home.

Unfortunately for Facebook, this update has also created what analysts suspect is an increase in the number of users wanting to delete their Facebook accounts. The number of searches for “how do i delete my Facebook account [sic]” have increased dramatically since the changes were announced, and a mass exodus from Facebook has been scheduled for May 31.

Nothing On the Web Is Free

Facebook has over 400 million users, and after the mass exodus, the site will have over 400 million users.

The changes Facebook has made are part of Facebook’s inevitable monetizing strategy. And that’s the point. Nothing about Facebook is free. Facebook has never been in the game not to make money. And it’s finally doing so. This year the company is expected to have revenues of between $1.2 and $2 billion. And yes, some of that will be profit.

Facebook will ultimately strike the necessary balance between its bottom line and its users. They always do. But what users have to realize is that one fact will remain: Facebook will make money off of the information users share on its site.

To those for whom this is a bad thing, Facebook is not the place to be. Profile information is the most valuable information for marketers on the Web, and no single Web service has more of this type of information than Facebook. Facebook will continue along its path to use this information to make money in order to stay in business and to continue to give users the services they sign up for in droves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *