Print 29 comment(s) - last by macthemechanic.. on Jan 13 at 7:47 PM

  (Source: BusinessWeek)
Facebook attempts to justify its questionable privacy practices

Mark Zuckberg, Chief Executive Officer and founder of Facebook, certainly deserves a lot of credit for creating the world's largest social network.  The network boasts over 350 million users, with approximately 175 million logging in on any given day.  Perhaps only second to Google in click power, the site is also growing rapidly.

However, there's a dark side to that popularity.  Facebook hasn't exactly been angelic in protecting users' privacy.  The network first landed in hot water way back in 2007, when its CEO was forced to publicly apologize for instituting a new system that snooped on users' online purchases and posted them in the user's feed -- without their permission.  That error led to a lawsuit eventually settled for $9.5M USD.

Since that time, Facebook has continued to make a variety of changes -- some based on the premise of protecting privacy, others seemingly eroding it.  But according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, privacy isn't really even something most users want or care about according to  Echoing recent comments by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who insinuated that those who want privacy are probably up to no good, the 25-year-old executive delivered some controversial comments at the Crunchie awards in San Francisco this weekend.

He commented on the norm no longer being an expectation of privacy, stating, "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.  When I got started in my dorm room at Harvard, the question a lot of people asked was, 'why would I want to put any information on the internet at all? Why would I want to have a website?'.  Then in the last 5 or 6 years, blogging has taken off in a huge way, and just all these different services that have people sharing all this information."

Mr. Zuckerberg's remarks come in the wake of recent privacy changes that forced users to elect whether to make all their information publicly viewable (the recommended option) or to opt out and keep their current privacy settings.  Critics have said that Facebook is trying to trick people into giving up their privacy.  They are calling for a Federal Trade Commission investigation of the company's practices.

Mr. Zuckerberg discussed this criticism, stating, "A lot of companies would be trapped by the conventions and their legacies of what they've built.  But we viewed that as a really important thing, to always keep a beginner's mind and what would we do if we were starting the company now and we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it."

The opposing opinions seem destined to clash.  For now Facebook is standing its ground.  Facebook employee Barry Schnitt recently commented, "Any suggestion that we're trying to trick them [Facebook users] into something would work against any goal that we have."

Even if Mr. Zuckerberg is right and by and large folks no longer care about privacy, perhaps that means that people need to reexamine their behavior.  After all, approximately a fifth of divorce cases in the UK are related to Facebook, according to British lawyers.

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Sigh here we go again.
By Reclaimer77 on 1/11/2010 6:54:59 PM , Rating: 5
Look I use Facebook to keep in touch with people on occasion and play FarmVille and just generally piss time away when I'm bored.

I do NOT use Facebook to keep my private information, well, private. It's a social site, not an ANTI social site. Put your nude pictures and information about your personal life somewhere else people.

Every month DT makes a Facebook privacy violation article, and coming from someone using Facebook every day, I just do NOT see where these claims are coming from. If you want something to be private, make sure you click "Friends only" or "only me" in the check boxes, idiots. And if you don't want apps publishing info, then maybe you should click "DO NOT PUBLISH" on that big ass box that pops up ?? I don't know, it's just an idea.

RE: Sigh here we go again.
By martyrant on 1/11/2010 7:05:36 PM , Rating: 2
what do you expect, it's posted by Jason Mick. when was the last time you saw him post anything relevant that you really WANTED to read? it's never about tech stuff.

RE: Sigh here we go again.
By LeviBeckerson on 1/11/2010 7:05:22 PM , Rating: 2
The problem isn't users who are conscious of their privacy online, it's those who are suddenly brought to an awareness by privacy advocates completely blowing a situation out of proportion. If it was never mentioned, most of the clamoring and cries of trickery wouldn't even exist as the average facebook user probably didn't even consider it before he saw it posted on his friends' profiles (who only posted it because they were shocked by the same post made by other friends that claimed facebook was trying trick them, which came from other friends and so on and so forth).

RE: Sigh here we go again.
By Brandon Hill on 1/11/2010 7:05:40 PM , Rating: 5
I expect some form of privacy. I use Facebook to communicate with friends, family, and industry folk. I DON'T want my profile showing up in some random Google search or open to any Tom, Dick, or Harry.

My profile is set to private and everything is set so that only friends can view the information -- that's the way it should be.

Why should your profile by default be open to everyone? I don't know 100% if this is the case, but I've noticed that a lot of people all of a sudden have their profiles/pics wide open with they weren't before.

RE: Sigh here we go again.
By LeviBeckerson on 1/11/2010 7:11:48 PM , Rating: 2
As I recall, when originally making a facebook profile, it specifically asked if you wanted your profile to be public or private. I never found any friend of a friend of a friend even who didn't select that option.

Then they changed their policies so you could make parts of your profile private or public or something and they recommend public so that the social networking part of the website can work better. At least that's how I understood it.


RE: Sigh here we go again.
By JasonMick on 1/11/2010 7:11:02 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe you're fine with all your private information ending up as Google-searchable text, but I don't think everyone thinks the same as you.

Regardless of whether you want to set everything to private or nothing, it should be a CHOICE if you want to keep customers.

Granted, Facebook does still offer this choice -- their new ToS message clearly explains that you'll lose privacy if you go with the default option. Those looking to preserve privacy should merely select the option to keep their current settings.

That said, I do think the recent change did seem like an attempt to "trick" users, IMO. In particular it seems an attempt to trick users who are too dumb to understand the ToS or to lazy to read it through. Considering that most people don't read contracts before signing them, there's probably plenty of the latter.

In other words, personally I feel Facebook is in the wrong here, but those who are losing privacy unintentionally are even more to blame for failing to read the contract.

I opted to keep my current privacy settings, and I can only hope others make an informed choice.

RE: Sigh here we go again.
By MScrip on 1/11/2010 7:44:50 PM , Rating: 2
I keep my Facebook profile locked up, using Only Friends or Friends of Friends for all my stuff.

I just Googled my name, and my profile did show up. I was not logged in, and I used a different browser just to be sure.

It showed my name, my profile picture, only 8 of my friends, and Pages I'm a fan of. Plus, you can't view my full friends list unless you're a friend of mine.

I don't know what else to expect. That seems pretty reasonable to me.

I'm glad articles like this are all over the web... this is a conversation that we need to have. But, use this knowledge to educate people... don't just go all crazy about it. If your Privacy Setting are correct, no one can see your private data on Google.

The whole "you must be friends with this person to see their profile" still holds true.

RE: Sigh here we go again.
By Reclaimer77 on 1/11/10, Rating: -1
RE: Sigh here we go again.
By JasonMick on 1/11/2010 9:47:36 PM , Rating: 4
That's your problem. Do us a favor and give us more of the facts, and less of what you think. Who do you think you are, Dan Rather ?

IMO stands for "In my opinion." Are you trying to say I can't have an opinion now? I'm just commenting on my thoughts on the issue. Read the facts in the article and form your own opinions, but don't fault me for expressing mine. You seem to express your opinions in our articles all the time. That's a good thing, but I don't understand why you're against other people having their say.

NO shit Sherlock. You only write about the evils of Facebook every freaking week.

Err... the last time I wrote about Facebook was December 23... that's three weeks ago. And before that it was November 24.


I've included plenty of positive coverage of Facebook too. Even on the December 23 divorce piece and this one (pieces that could be perceived as "negative" due to the topic), I commend Facebook for its great growth rate and user base.

Most of the Facebook coverage of late has been done by Shane McGlaun, I should note.

NO shit Sherlock. You only write about the evils of Facebook every freaking week.

Did you even read what I wrote? I already wrote that it's EASY to understand IMO... Like I said, many people are just too lazy, though, and don't read disclaimers. For those people, the blame for their loss of privacy mostly rests on them.

I just don't in general get why Facebook had to reask you if you wanted to change your privacy. And even if they wanted to do that, I don't get why they would precheck to make your currently private info public.

Sure those who blindly click through are being lazy and careless, but that's poor design IMO. Software design in any form online or off requires you to try to cater to less savvy/lazier users. In an ideal world you wouldn't have to do this, but its just the reality of business. The way Facebook rolled out its changes, IMO was sloppy and set themselves up for criticism, even if it was a bit overblown.

I don't know Reclaimer, you seem particular vehement tonight. Can we discuss the topic and try to keep the flaming to a minimum?

RE: Sigh here we go again.
By The0ne on 1/12/2010 3:21:06 PM , Rating: 2
I think he's been eating too much red meat or something. He's not this bad or off on topics but lately it's been horrendous and in no short form, inaccurate even at the expense of repeating the same thing and arguing over it.

RE: Sigh here we go again.
By MScrip on 1/11/2010 7:31:42 PM , Rating: 2
I totally agree.

I never thought of Facebook as a super-secure vault to store my innermost secrets. It's a social website. You use it to talk to other people and share stuff with people you know. I use Facebook for the interaction between people... quick messages back and forth, chat, and sharing photos on the largest photo-sharing site.

The best part? You only add people you know. This is something that most people forget. Plus, if you don't want all your friends to see what you wrote on Sally's Wall... why did you write it in the first place? Send her a message... or keep Facebook out of it altogether and just send her an email.

Sure, it sucks that Facebook keeps changing their policies. But guess what? If you set up your privacy settings before the changes... they were kept after they made the changes... as long as you said "OK". It's still very easy to find your privacy settings now... hold your mouse over Settings and click on Privacy Settings.

Shady? Underhanded? Sure... but just like you're allowed to cancel your cellphone contract if *they* change their terms... you are more than welcome to stop using the *free* service that is Facebook. Go back to MySpace... or build your own blog and see how many people don't come visit.

I use Facebook every day too... because it's just so damn easy. I log in... read the News Feed to see what's up... look at new photos that my friends have uploaded... and I'm done. I share my photos on Facebook because I want people to see them... Facebook is where my friends are.

I don't go looking for secret data to use against my friends.. nor do I post anything I wouldn't want people to see. I understand what Facebook is for... and I use it as such.

RE: Sigh here we go again.
By 91TTZ on 1/12/2010 10:08:40 AM , Rating: 2
The issue is larger than that. He and others who run sites that hold a large amount of data about users are trying to prepare people for the day when they "cash out" and sell that information.

Information that people disclosed because they thought it was private will eventually be sold, and he's trying to warm people up to that idea.

You ppl have no rights
By intelpatriot on 1/12/2010 4:21:48 AM , Rating: 2
Why should you have a right to privacy?

To have rights you have to have respect, and why should a billionaire who's personal beliefs are against democracy be forced to give you his respect?

By using HIS site you agreed to a contract and contracts do not have to be fair.

Maybe when you ppl make your millions you can earn those rights you think you should have just for being born.

RE: You ppl have no rights
By cochy on 1/12/2010 9:22:56 AM , Rating: 2
What on Earth are you talking about? People are born with rights. Lots of them. That's why you're all lucky to be born in the free world.

This free world is run by the rule of law. If said law provides for a certain level of privacy (and they do) then it doesn't matter how many billions someone has or how many sites he runs, this person needs to respect those laws or get shutdown.

RE: You ppl have no rights
By stilltrying on 1/13/2010 2:21:25 AM , Rating: 2
There is only rule of law for the peons.

Facebook and privacy, screw them, exactly the reason I dumped them. I dont want my thoughts catalogued by them so bye bye facebook.

Reasonable title
By alfredska on 1/11/2010 11:07:48 PM , Rating: 3
Thank you for making a reasonable title for this article. News stories with sensationalist titles have been rampant on the web lately, bending his words far out of context.

RE: Reasonable title
By SiN on 1/12/2010 1:29:53 PM , Rating: 2
Now if only this applied to more of DT's articles within recent times.

Once again:
By Motoman on 1/11/2010 8:26:19 PM , Rating: 3
Newsflash people - posting stuff on the internet is an activity diametrically opposed to preserving your personal privacy.

Don't use Facebook
By piroroadkill on 1/12/2010 3:58:02 AM , Rating: 3
Problem solved

Anyone who uses Facebook
By amanojaku on 1/11/2010 6:54:23 PM , Rating: 2
And complains about a lack of privacy is blind. Just look at the OWNER. Most of the time he's half naked! What kind of privacy do you expect from an exhibitionist?!?

By boogle on 1/12/2010 7:13:25 AM , Rating: 2
The problem privacy groups have isn't just the whole public / private stuff.

Facebook can gather a lot of information about you, that you aren't even explicitly giving. For example based on the profiles you click on, the games you play, the groups you're part of, the things you're a fan of, etc. etc. they can create a very detailed profile of you. Even if they didn't have your age/name, they could tell where you grew up, your political leanings, your sexuality, your psychological makeup, etc. etc. Facebook can and do then use this information to make money - this is the data that is of great concern.

This also extends to Google. They may not identify you personally, but based on your searches they know roughly what gender and age you are, even without a Google account. They then use this information so advertisers can target their ads at specific demographics. Anyone can create an adwords account - go take a look.

Taken to the extreme, dictators and other extreme leaders would love this kind of information about their populace. Eliminating any dissent or an entire ethnic group is much much easier when you know exactly who they are, and who their friends are. All of a sudden the 'bad people' or 'people up to no good' is a completely different group to who they were earlier on.

Having nothing to hide, is a bad phrase to say the least. Do you have curtains on your windows? Do you post your credit card bill on your door? Is your door locked? It doesn't have to be illegal for you to want to keep some things to yourself. Apathy is not in your best interest, at least if you want a say in the way your country is run. Democracy ensures the people get exactly what they deserve. Don't like the patriot act, or many other police-state laws passed in various other countries? The people allowed it, including yourself.

By ZeroOne on 1/12/2010 9:16:22 AM , Rating: 2
Wel this is one example of many why I never use my real name and adress on the net..and if i have to then I do not come to that web site or community

By strunkwriter on 1/12/2010 9:23:30 AM , Rating: 2
People do have a different expectation of privacy than they did ten years ago. That is the problem.

Those of us who are older and more experienced know the importance of creating social boundaries. We've learned to cover our tattoos or not to wear our politically provocative buttons when going to a job interview. But it doesn't do much good to do these things if your potential employer can Google your name and find pictures of your nipples rings or your Obama tattoo.

The issue is less of privacy and more of learning what behaviors/information ARE private, how to create boundaries, and what the natural consequences of our actions would be.

Less private now
By japlha on 1/12/2010 10:03:40 AM , Rating: 2
Facebook used to be more private until their most recent privacy changes. Before, I could hide my friends list from everyone even friends. Now I'm forced to let friends see my friends list.

People seem to misunderstand what privacy means. Privacy doesn't always mean hiding something "bad". To me, Facebook privacy means giving us the right to determine what gets shared and who gets to see it.

Facebook's model is spam. For some reason it's ok for them to do it.

I've requested some changes to be made in terms of privacy. If they don't change then I'll have to. No big deal. Anyone I care about knows how to contact me.

Bad Zuckerberg
By pakotlar on 1/12/2010 11:08:26 AM , Rating: 2
I'm definitely not giving Zuckerburg the password to my softcore porn Zip disk.

By macthemechanic on 1/13/2010 7:47:37 PM , Rating: 2
What does he base this opinion upon? His own wish or talking with friends over coffee? Perhaps a survey of Facebook users would be appropriate.

By Freezebyte on 1/11/2010 11:20:03 PM , Rating: 1
If facebook keeps this crap up i'll just close my account with 16 friends which is all close friends and family. I got better shit to do with my life then have 500+ people as "Friends" that I don't even know at a personal face to face level watching and demanding me to try to keep them up to date with every farking thing im doing in my miserable life. I don't need e-people to make me feel better about myself.

By alimaamoser on 1/12/2010 12:44:49 AM , Rating: 1
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By croc on 1/12/2010 2:49:09 AM , Rating: 1
Zuckerman is a Jew. So any one using Facebook is a Zucker. Murdoch is a right-of-Genghis Khan Conservative. So anyone that uses MySpace is a right wing religious zealot. Twitterers are just ...Twits.

Seriously, if anyone thinks that these sites are in any way altruistic, then I have a bridge for you. And for all of those that opened accounts on any of these sites, kiss your 'privacy' goodbye.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain

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