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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Privacy is overrated at Facebook

Facebook continues its march towards becoming one of the largest repositories of personal information on the planet. The huge user base of the social networking site and the amount of time that many users spend on the site is enough to make marketers salivate.

The problem for the users of Facebook around the world is that this march towards profits and sharing the huge amounts of personal information is eroding the privacy that users once had on the social network. In the early days of Facebook, even the people you were friends with were not shown to those who you didn’t approve.

Today much of the information that was stashed away behind security in the early days is out in the open for anyone to peruse. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reckons that people online today just don’t have the same expectations of privacy online anymore. There are many who disagree with that notion, including a few Senators who are in a potential position to force Facebook to change its data sharing ways with new legislation.

Wired reports that new information has surfaced that claims Zuckerberg just doesn't care about the privacy of Facebook users. The revelation came in the form of a Tweet between the New York Times tech blogger Nick Bilton and an unnamed Facebook employee.

The Tweet read, "Off record chat w/ Facebook employee. Me: How does Zuck feel about privacy? Response: [laughter] He doesn’t believe in it."

Some of the things that Zuckerberg has said and moves that Facebook has made certainly support the claim that Facebook doesn't care much for privacy. The company is on a march towards monetizing the huge amount of traffic it generates and one of the things that has to fall by the wayside to make money is some of the privacy of users. 

Wired reports that one of the ways Facebook user information that is shared with third-party advertisers is being used is to target ads specifically at the user. For instance, when a user goes to the Microsoft site -- which is one of the third-parties that Facebook shares information with -- the user will see ads specifically tailored to software and services they are interested in.

Some new Facebook features are also clearly ways for the social network to learn more about the product likes and dislikes of users. One such feature is the "Like" button that lets sites put a Facebook button on product and service pages that users can click. A click would send the information to Facebook helping to link the user to things that they like and dislike. It’s unclear what the benefit of clicking a like button would be to the user, other than publishing the like to what Facebook calls the "Open Graph."

Facebook is opening a can of worms that marketers and other social networks are sure to follow closely. The introduction of legislation to stop information sharing with third-party sites without the express permission of users of social networks like Facebook may be the only way to turn the tide in the battle against making money and privacy online.

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Targeted ads
By MrFord on 4/29/2010 12:44:29 PM , Rating: 2
Ok I may get flamed for that... and do understand that I'm all about privacy, and I think Facebook, as other sites, need to enforce current privacy settings, as opposed to rave about "Protect the privacy of our users", then turn around and sell all they can before getting caught.

On the other hand, especially with Google AdSense and the like, at least I am getting some ads that are relevant and that I can use. Even 5 years ago, you would get bombarded with random ads that I didn't even bothered to look.

Now, from time to time, I stumble on an ad for something that I've been looking for that I either couldn't find, or a equivalent that I didn't know existed. And yes, I even ended up buying said products a couple time.

And while I hate being flooded with ads, at least if it can be useful to me, and at the same time help finance a website, I think it's a great think. And to me, it's much more effective than any ads on TV or in a magazine, because it can be much more centered around my preferences.

Is it a little creepy that some database somewhere knows that I'm looking for a receiver or that I like FlightSim? Maybe, but that's not a new concept, by looking at my mailbox (the metal thing outside my house, not my e-mail). But if it can help me get a better deal or find a better suitable alternative to a product, I think it's a win-win.

And if I didn't want anybody to know that, I would certainly not post it on Facebook or tweet about it. It's like posting your address and phone number on Craigslist and then wonder why you keep receiving creepy calls and junk mail.

RE: Targeted ads
By jimhsu on 4/29/2010 1:37:00 PM , Rating: 2
There is a line, however, between obtrusive (or potentially embarrassing) and non-obtrusive:

1. Non-obtrusive - "Try this NEW X hair gel! 50% off!" (male, uses styling gel, often buys hair products on sale)

2. Obtrusive - "Gingko - proven to reduce your risk of Alzheimers" (DNA sequencing from 23andME reveals increased risk of Alzheimers in subpopulation)

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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