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Facebook: Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t

Joshua Errett had a good column in Now Magazine about Facebook’s latest strategic salvos for Web domination. A comment that resonated was the reality that even if you oppose Facebook’s everything-is-public approach, it is difficult, if not impossible, to avoid playing along.

With more than 400 million users, Facebook is an online “Goliath”, and even though Goliath may not be behaving particularly well, he’s still the biggest guy around so you better play nice.

It’s one of the reasons why thousands of Web sites have already embraced Facebook’s new Graph API, which means that if you’re logged in to Facebook and then visit a third-party Web site using the Graph API, your experience will be magically personalized. By “magically”, the Web site will already know a lot about you by tapping into what’s available publicly on your Facebook profile.

If this is a trade-off that you’re willing to accept as the cost of personalization, that’s fine. But if you’re concerned about your privacy and where your information is available, I’d recommend spending 15 minutes tweaking your Facebook privacy settings. (Note: Here’s a good overview from the Electronic Frontier Foundation on Facebook’s evolving privacy policies over the years.)

Despite some major concerns about the new Facebook, many Web sites will politely fall into line because they have no other choice. If they decide not to use the Graph API and not offer a “Like” feature on their sites, it means not offering a feature that many of users want or think they want. It’s like opening a coffee shop and deciding not to offer sugar because it causes cavities.

As Errett points out, Web sites and Facebook users will accept’s Facebook’s new approach unless there’s another social networking option that’s more user-friendly and more concerned about privacy.

In the meantime, it’s business as usual. It doesn’t mean you have to like it but just be aware of the game’s new rules.

For some of my other thoughts about Facebook (and there’s plenty), here are some recent posts:

- Has Facebook Just Repackaged Beacon? Does Anyone Care?

- A Must-Do: Check Your Facebook Privacy Settings

- A Fork in the Road for Online Privacy

About Mark Evans

I'm the principle with ME Consulting, which provides strategic and marketing services to startups and entrepreneurs. This includes strategic and tactics plans, core messaging, brand positioning and content planning and creation.
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