ADOTAS – I wonder if CEO Mark Zuckerberg has turned into the Facebook equivalent of Bill Gates. While doing some research yesterday, I came upon the Dickipedia (sort of like Wikipedia, but for… people that can be easily associated with male genitalia) entry for Zuckerberg, which nearly made me fall out of my chair laughing:
“Many people are quick to compare Zuckerberg to MySpace president Tom Anderson. It is worth noting that while everyone on Myspace is Tom’s friend, no one on Facebook is Mark’s friend. This is because the latter is a dick.”
Zuckerberg’s rep took another hit yesterday as BusinessInsider exposed a none-too-flattering IM exchange between the 19-year-old Facebook founder and a Harvard friend. “So if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard, just ask,” he wrote. “I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS…. People just submitted it. I don’t know why. They ‘trust me.’ Dumb fucks.”
Yikes! Granted, teenage Zuck (his IM name) probably had no idea the ‘book would take off and become the global phenomenon it is now, but that kind of disdain towards users (even facetiously) does not help the company’s case in its latest privacy drama, especially when their argument of late (for just about everything) has been, “Trust us.”
In a statement, Facebook replied: “The privacy and security
of our users’ information is of paramount importance to us…. Everyone within the company understands our success is inextricably linked with people’s trust in the company and the service we provide. We are grateful people continue to place their trust in us.”
This latest privacy debacle elicited an interesting debate between friends last night while watching the Boston Celtics finish off the Cleveland Cavaliers. One pal pointed out that if you put that information online, it’s pretty much public and game for advertisers that want to target you. However, I replied, most users didn’t know when they signed up that they would have to change 50 settings so Facebook wouldn’t sell off their data to “trusted partners.”
Facebook’s been changing the rules as it goes along (see the charts), most definitely in its own, revenue-producing favor. The Electronic Frontier Foundation actually constructed a timeline of Facebook statements that document this change, concluding:
“As Facebook grew larger and became more important, it could have chosen to maintain or improve [privacy] controls. Instead, it’s slowly but surely helped itself — and its advertising and business partners — to more and more of its users’ information, while limiting the users’ options to control their own information.”
As John Gapper wrote in a Financial Times article titled “Facebook’s Open Disdain for Privacy,” “Not only has Facebook gradually eroded the privacy rights of its users, but it has done so in a confusing and opaque way.”
In a Q&A with NYTimes.com, Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president for public policy, says communication between Facebook and its users needs to improve, but his responses are the equivalent of pissing in users’ faces and calling it rain. Communication needs to improve, sure, but the onus is on Facebook’s side. Is it any wonder users believe Facebook’s mavens view them as dumb fucks? They seem to be treating users that way.
However, I think something else is brewing in the latest hostile reaction — a general realization by the public (particularly people in the U.S.) about how much data they would consider personal is online. Perhaps its a growing shift in the cultural mindset from oversharing — and this heightened self-consciousness may be the result of increased targeting and use of data by advertisers.
It might finally be sinking in that the Internet is not free. In exchange for handy services like Facebook, you must exchange a pound of flesh — I mean, a great deal of personal data. You must accept that you will be targeted by advertisers who in turn pay to keep a lot of cool stuff free. In that case, online consumers aren’t dumb, but they have been willfully ignorant.