A Little More Facebook as Evil Discussion

kinnon —  November 27, 2007 — Leave a comment

Facebookgopher At some levels, it would seem that Facebookians took only a little notice of Facebook’s new personal data driven revenue generator, Facebook Beacon, and disappeared back into their little Facebook worlds. Rather like a momentarily concerned gopher sticking it’s head up out of hole, looking around, and disappearing back into it’s gopher warren. "Everything’s fine. No need to worry. We’re all safe."

But the conversation continues amongst those who concern themselves with these things; Doc Searls, David Weinberger, the Scoble Bunny and others. (I would love a dear friend of mine who’s an Internet Privacy lawyer to weigh in on this – but, as he only occasionally stops by here, I won’t hold my breath.) Via Scoble’s link blog, I read Dare Obasanjo’s post on Facebook this morning. If you are even remotely concerned with your privacy and are a committed Facebookian, you need to read it.

Dare has some money quotes from Forrester Research’s Charlene Li and Windows Live VP, David Treadwell and then says this about Facebook Beacon;

Linking identities and data sharing without user permission: One of the thinks people have found creepy about this feature is that they are automatically discovered to be Facebook users on sites that they have not told they use Facebook. In Charlene’s case, she actually uses different email addresses to log in on both sites which must have seemed even doubly weird to her at first. As Ethan Zuckerman points out in his post Facebook changes the norms for web purchasing and privacy this completely upturns user expectations of how privacy on the Web works especially when it comes to cookies.
 
  It’s a genuine concern that Facebook has opened a Pandora’s box when you consider what could happen if it is deemed socially acceptable for Web sites to use cookies to actively identify users across sites as opposed to the passive way it is done today. I’m sure the folks at Google would be excited about this since thanks to AdSense and DoubleClick, they probably have cookies on every computer on the Web that has cookies turned enabled in the Web browser. Today it’s Facebook, tomorrow Amazon and eBay are posting your purchase history to every OpenSocial enabled web site courtesy of the cookies from these sites or from Google ads on your machine.

I can safely assume that most Facebookians aren’t concerned about their privacy…and their inability to chose whether to share their personal data or not. My kids scoffed at my previous post on Facebook, Is Facebook evil?. Blogdom friends who responded with concern to that post are still active participants in the wonderful world of Facebook.

Facebook is not a benign social community. Its a business designed to make money for its owners. (I have no issues with businesses making money – having owned my own business for most of the last 26 years.) Facebook makes that money by placing advertising in front of Facebookian eyeballs in any way possible and whether you want to see it or not. They make their money by tracking your web wandering to better target you…and more specifically your wallet. You have value to them exclusively as a consumer.

I strongly believe that you must be in control of your web identity and presence. Facebook doesn’t agree. (Their opt-out features are designed to be hard to use and confusing. In spite of what they say, here.) You are nothing but eyeballs to them – eyeballs they are working hard to monetize. At least have those eyeballs open.

A Suggestion to Facebook: Why not allow people to pay for their Facebook service, allowing them to completely opt out of your intrusive eyeball-selling strategy? Offer Facebook accounts for $50/year to students and $100/year to non-students. People that want to stay in for free can suffer through your money-making strategies. At least they are willing participants in selling their data. Fools that they may be.

UPDATE: Follow the links in this Doc Searls post from a little earlier today.

kinnon

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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

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