Two weeks back, while speaking at SAScon, I said in a panel there that “Facebook is the scariest shit I’ve seen in years”, related to their latest updates. I also said it was a lawsuit waiting to happen, coming from the European Union. I was right. Well, not entirely, it’s not a lawsuit yet. I referred to a blog post on State of Search by my buddy Bas about Privacy, Facebook & Google. He made a very good analogy to real life:
Imagine this: you are buying a bread in the supermarket which has discount passes. That means they know what you bought. You payed with your bank card, so the bank now knows where you spent your money. Meanwhile you get gas outside of the supermarket so the bank now knows you came with the car, bought the bread and had gas. The gas station also knows which kind of gas and the fact that you decided to buy that candy-bar which was staring at you next to the counter. All bits of information which are separately not that important. But now here’s one company which allows you to say whether or not you liked the services. In return, they store every bit of information, so the bread, the candybar, the gas, all of it. And then they sell, or give away, that data to a third party, lets say a gym.
Social networks needed to have a default setting in which access to profile information and information about users’ connections were “limited to self-selected contacts”.
There’s no word not to be misunderstood there, and I fully agree. Especially in the light of recent developments, allowing people to search for updates from outside Facebook. Weird thing is, I actually only started to use Facebook a bit better a couple of weeks back, on the day of the F8 developer conference where they announced these changes. I see the possibilities for marketing on & with Facebook a bit better now, and understand the power it has for advertisers. Those advertisers get that as well, it turns out, comScore says Facebook served up 176.3 billion ads to U.S. customers in Q1, being 16.2% of the market.
So I hope they get this fixed. I don’t want to do away with Facebook, not just yet, I do want them to change their way of thinking about and dealing with privacy though, and not just now, but for all eternity.