When I was in high school, there was a girl in my class who thought it was hilarious to yell this out any time the teacher would reprimand someone for acting out. This is because it was hilarious. Maybe you had to be there. Ah, yeshiva high school. It translates, loosely, as “audacity, shame, disgrace!” Well, I call this out at Facebook… again. I can’t really think anything else about a company whose business plan seems to be:
a. Create a great service with few downsides and great privacy control.
b. Sign up everyone and make your service indispensable.
c. Nibble a bit at people’s privacy in an opaque way.
d. When they don’t really notice or are too confused to understand, sell them all out!
Very soon, you see, even more of your information will be available for anyone, whether it be your stalker or your ex or your least favorite corporation, to see. Naturally, they say it’s to give you “a richer experience” but it would seem to me that it’s only a select group of executives getting richer. This week I saw a screening of the movie Tapped (I love documentaries and had seen another great one by that team, Who Killed the Electric Car) which is a heavy-handed but important look at all the damage that’s being done by the bottled water industry. The first third of the film is devoted to the town of Fryeburg, Maine and their fight against Nestle who is mining their town for Poland Spring water. So not only is the town losing a natural resource but it’s so someone else can profit. My friends, Facebook is Nestle and we are Fryeburg. Your information, of course, is the water.
But, honestly, that’s not what bothers me most as a private person who believed what was originally stated by Facebook: that my name, my picture, and my information would remain private. Now, you may say, why not just delete my account? And, in fact, that’s what people are saying all over the Internet. The blasé, “get over yourselves” comments fall into three categories:
a. Who cares if the world finds that picture of me playing beer pong shirtless?
b. It’s free! So shut up already and stop demanding things.
c. Just cut the cord. It’s not like you need Facebook to live.
So, let me answer you, “stop whining, Facebook users” people.
a. I’ll tell you who cares: your next employer. Or not, they probably won’t be your next employer. Or your ex. Or your current significant other’s ex. Or whomever! It’s my desire to be private. Maybe you don’t care but I do and guess what? We’re all different and that’s what makes the world a fun place. Not to mention, they told us our info would be private so whatever my reasons are, I expect them to honor that. That’s why I joined.
b. It’s not free, it has advertising. If I have to see all those ridonculous ads for Acai berries, then someone’s getting paid on the basis of my checking into Facebook several times a day.
c. I always use this description to get people to join Facebook, people who say, “what’s the point? I have other ways to communicate with people.” Well, I have other ways than the phone to communicate with people but yet I still have a phone. People, in 2010, Facebook is the phone and if you’re not on it, you’re Amish. It’s nice to be Amish, but I can’t really reach you unless I happen to be in rural Pennsylvania. When I have this conversation with people, I usually refer them to Farhad Manjoo’s excellent Slate piece, “Everyone else is on Facebook, Why Aren’t You?”. It states it all perfectly. In my world and in many of yours, if you’re not on Facebook, you’re cut off from friends, contacts, and careers.
So Facebook, now that you’ve made yourself the phone, now that you have expended lots of effort getting even people like my Luddite, privacy-crazed friend and my 73 year old aunt to join, now you’re going to sell us all out? What’s the opposite of that “Don’t Be Evil” philosophy?
Should you want to read more, including how to fix your settings as much as possible to not have people you don’t want getting their hands on your information, try these excellent resources:
Gawker: How to Restore Your Privacy On Facebook
Simplehelp: How to reclaim your privacy by disabling Facebook’s “Open Graph”
Protect Your Privacy, Opt Out of Facebook’s New Instant Personalization
Depeche Mode – Shame
In the absence of a replacement for Napster’s free streaming links, I’m going for the time being with a link to the Amazon page for that song. It’s only a 30 second snippet but on the plus side, you can buy it if you like it.