Some of you may have read my cautionary tail about facebook being some kind of crazy CIA funded intelligence gathering tool, and despite my not being able to disprove that, I'm actually commenting on something different tonight.
Regular users of facebook may have noticed the facelift the site received sometime today. A blog on facebook does a pretty good job of explaining the new feature, so I won't bore you with the details of what it is, what it does, and how it works (that's what links are for).
The addition of this feature has generated a number of complaints from long time users who have gone sofar as to threaten to leave the site. Talking with some friends directly, they're simply uncomfortable with the transparency these feeds create. Friends can now see all the activities going on among members of their social networks. While I'll admit that I found the depth of what was provided somewhat troubling, I am inclined to play devils advocate, and point out some of the things users should consider before they point fingers at facebook's developers ...
Perhaps one of the most troubling realities with social networking sites like facebook and myspace is that users tend to forget that this is still the "internets" --- You know... the series of tubes. The semi-educated among us learned long ago to think long an hard before putting anything up on the net that might present problems later -- "Everything on the net is discoverable." Some of us learned this faster than others. Nevertheless, the social networking sites of today have created an illusion of privacy which users are unknowingly apathetic towards or simply choose to ignore outright ...
If you're looking for information on anyone 16-28yrs where do you think you'll find more information... A Search Engine ? Or myspace? Or facebook ? -- Now what if you had their resume. Pretty easy wouldn't you say?
... I don't mean to suggest that people that put personal details online are foolish or downright stupid. I myself disclose a great deal about myself via the net, but have always done so with the notion that anyone with the time a motivation could discover these details. But now lets assume that systems like facebook are impenetrable, and that your information is only available to those you've defined as 'friend' -- Even with this layer of ignorance in place, facebook users are still outraged? - about their own naiveté one might suspect.
Consider that the information you're so 'outraged' about being presented is information that any of your 'friends' would be privy to when they visit your profile. So you're basically angry that facebook has made it easier to access information that users already had access to? Information that you voluntarily supplied in the first place and knowingly presented for public display. There is a false sense of privacy WITHIN the false sense of privacy. Users make the assumption that their 'friends' lack the time and motivation to 'check-in' for changes as frequently and effectively as this feed mechanism. While this probably and accurate assumption, it is certainly not a safe one it re-confirms this 'false sense of privacy'.
Most facebook users login daily to see what is happening with their network of friends, not to make modifications to their own profile (although this could occur in the same visit as a result of a 'friends-page' visit). The feed simply supplies the information they're already seeking in a chronological and easy to understand fashion with links to the appropriate pages, should they require more details. These items are perfectly easy to ignore should they choose.
In the grand scheme of things, I can understand why people feel the way they do about this new feature. It brings information and events which they could previously pretend were anonymous and invisible to the attention of others. It's worth pointing out that despite the lack of privacy customizations available which pertain to this NEW feature, facebook does supply a number of privacy mechanisms which are underutilized. This leads me to the unexpected benefits which would emerge from the abrupt presentation of this feature ...
- Users must face reality when it comes to the information they present about themselves online -- make appropriate changes to ensure they're only sharing details they're comforable sharing
- Those previously ignorant to facebook's privacy features will utilize them (as they should) to restrict access to their information -- hopefully this will not serve to reinforce that false sense of privacy I mentioned before... It's still the Internet
- Friend-Addictions will be fought as members re-evaluate who they've included as friends -- You can no longer assume that they're NOT reading about your life 24x7
... There are about a dozen more points I would like to make about this recent fiasco, but I fear I might go on too long if I haven't already. Suffice it to say that those who are outraged about this new functionality need to take a look at themselves, think about what information they're making available and to whom, and consider their own 'voyeuristic' adventures before assuming that their 'friends' aren't taking regular note of changes to their profile.
Please bear in mind that I still consider this new functionality surprisingly freaky, but take issue with those who view this as a gross and perverse (overstep) by facebook. Because I know I haven't addressed all possible lines of argument, I await your critiques that I might address in the comments section or in proceeding posts.