The Future of Facebook

May 13, 2010 § 1 Comment

Facebook is at the thick of things again and for all the wrong reasons. From Zuckerberg’s past to the Zynga brouhaha, every bit of news about Facebook these days is negative. Now, with the privacy issues getting so much attention, it is time to examine it in more detail. For a objective timeline depicting the changes to Facebook’s privacy policy, see this excellent compilation by Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Two recommended readings on the topic are here and here. It has become so big that Facebook is rumored to be holding an all hands meeting to address the firestorm. Now there is talk of a new wave of Facebook deactivations [1] [2][3] that is starting to make it trendy to quit Facebook. Big and influential blogs are calling for users to quit Facebook [1][2][3]. And did I mention about privacy groups and senators gunning for Facebook. To complete the circle of defamy, there is now a high profile trendy open source alternative to Facebook that is getting a lot of attention called Diaspora.

Now admitted that this could all be dismissed as growing pains for one of the biggest Web sites (if not The Biggest) in the world. Didn’t Microsoft and Google have to go through similar pains in the form of antitrust filings and privacy violation accusations. The Google Buzz privacy issues are still raw in our minds. But this time it seems like there is a growing problem with the ever changing, ever complicated privacy policies of Facebook. As time goes by, it seems like more and more information is being made public by default and it is also getting harder and harder to keep things private.

So where does it leave us?. Out in the open as always. Privacy as a necessity is dead. It seems to be getting more and more optional by the day. To quote Mark Zuckerberg, “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.” . He may be singled out for the scope of this article and in view of the current situation but his opinion is really no different from most Web 2.0 companies. The consumer, your, data is no longer yours and it is extremely valuable.

So what can we do?. For starters, revisit our Facebook privacy settings and tweak it to our personal choice. It would also help visiting the page every once in a while to keep pace with policy changes which are forever changing. It would also help to manage what is being shared in Facebook. I am guilty of sharing more than I should and I have started making remedial changes. Facebook is awesome when it comes to sharing photos and thoughts and links and ideas with friends and family. The only problem is there are far more people watching than you think or want to. Think about it.

Update: Now WSJ has an article saying that “how to delete Facebook account” is starting to trend high in Google Search.

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