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Facebook May Be Evil But….

Since introducing the privacy-killing Graph API recently, Facebook has been under the gun. In addition to the concerns about its disdain for privacy, there’s also been growing chatter about people leaving the social networking service, as well as suggestions that MySpace or start-ups (Diaspora, anyone?) may have discovered a chink in Facebook’s armour.

But as Business Insider makes clear, the harsh reality is Facebook isn’t going anywhere. The company is too big, too aggressive and far too popular to see it pull a Friendster (and everyone remembers how Friendster was the king of the social networking world at one time, right?).

Facebook may be the elephant in the room but it’s a gigantic elephant. As much as the digital elite may be wailing away at Facebook’s hubris and that of its youthful CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, most Facebook users get far too much value and utility from Facebook to consider using something else.

It’s like shopping at Wal-Mart, and then being told you need to find another retailer because Wal-Mart buys products from Chinese factories that pay their workers $1/hour. It be unfair and wrong but consumers have a habit of ignoring the facts if it means have to change their behaviour.

At the end of the day, Facebook will probably get its act together by appeasing the privacy advocates with some policy changes. It will be a classic two steps forward, one step back strategic move. This will still let Facebook make its data more available, while allowing the privacy people to claim victory over Goliath.

If you’re concerned about Facebook but don’t want to delete your account, consider the following:

1. Spend some time looking at your privacy settings, particularly the “Applications and Web Sites” section, which includes the innocuous sounding “Instant Personalization Pilot Program”.

This program lets Web sites such as CNN.com and Yelp.com personalize their sites based on your Facebook information. If this is something you don’t want, click on “Edit Setting” and uncheck the box at the bottom of the page.

2. Be careful about the information within your profile – things like your birthday, location and interests. Facebook now has the ability to pull this data so it can be used to let advertisers target you better. As well, it’s used for the “Instant Personalization Pilot Program”.

3. Since Facebook is becoming more of a public place, think about your updates, Wall posts and the links, photos and videos being shared. More of this information is being indexed by search engines as opposed to being just for family and friends. This mean what you say on Facebook doesn’t necessarily stay on Facebook.

More: Mashable’s Ben Parr as a column “In Defense of Facebook” that suggests the flack Facebook is attracting for its privacy policies is misguided because it’s really up to users to protect their own privacy.

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  • http://www.itworldcanada.com/blogs/makingitwork/ Pedro Cardoso

    Great article Mark. Many point to Mr. Zuckerberg and call him young and “out of touch” with the consequences of Facebooks evolution, yet what FB has done is truly brilliant from a strategic marketing and business development perspective – even if many of us “love to hate him for it”.

    The fact is, this is like the classic “boiling frog” analogy. Had FB launched in the form it is in today, it may not have reached the epic numbers or critical mass of today. But by incrementally yet deliberately marching towards its vision of “FB Everywhere”, its ubiquitous presence now means its utility and value far outweigh any perceived risks.

    In fact, what is the risk – and I know very well what many of the issues are with FB’s heavy handed and rocket science privacy settings…? But ignoring the facebook populace that post “indiscriminately”, for the mainstream the promise of more “specific, targeted & relevant” advertising is not an unattractive proposition. Plus for more and more users out there, “Facebook IS their internet start page”.

    FB may be the elephant in the room, but when no one is looking, we’re petting that elephant and assuring it that we won’t leave. Interesting times indeed.

    • http://www.markevanstech.com Mark Evans

      Thanks for running with the elephant in the room analogy. :) It is interesting has Facebook has evolved and become an entity that is very different from what it was even a year ago. In a sense, it’s brilliant strategy even if you don’t like what Facebook has become.

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  • http://Communicationstrategies.blogspot.com Bruce Winter

    Come on Mark. Buyer beware is so 1960′s. Whatever became of open and transparent? Facebook isn’t. It is abusive. Internet influencers like yourself need to hold large cos to a higher standard than buyer beware. How can ‘we’ be ware, when the details aren’t even in small print. Facebook’s standard is to deceive. Large doe not necessarily equate to good. Lord knows too big to fail, is why we are in such a mess. O yes there are options don’t shop Wal-Mart and don’t Facebook!

  • http://corvusconsulting.ca Todd Sieling

    It’s true that people need to be aware of how they share information online, but suggesting that any anxiety about Facebook’s privacy dissolution is the customer’s problem is abusive.

    Facebook set up an expectation under a set of rules, then pulled the rug out from under people after establishing that trust. If it’s not too spammy, I’ve written about the difference between protecting your privacy and the ability to trust a vendor at their word: http://corvusconsulting.ca/2010/05/anti-privacy-browncoats/