Recently a tiny fraction (a very vocal fraction, I must say) of the online community worldwide has been getting itself all upset and feeling indignant about the privacy issue on Facebook.
Funny how people don’t realize that privacy has long been dead.
I, for one, will not leave Facebook, come 31st May, when 3377 (at press time) Facebook users severe ties with Facebook, one of the most visited websites on the internet (at present, the most visited website in the United States, and the world’s top social networking site and most visited mobile social network).
I am not leaving, because despite having 3377 people pledging to quit Facebook, there are still over 400 million people on Facebook I can interact with, and Facebook still remains a very effective way to reach the masses in Asia Pacific. (Well, social media is my job.)
But I digress. The truth is this: Facebook, now branded as the evil privacy thief (and Mark Zuckerberg the king of the thieves), is no different from a blog. Except now you have fixed pages for you to post stories on, fixed albums for you to organize your photos in, a proper ‘biodata’ page to plonk in all the information you might ever want people to know about you, and a section to list all your likes and dislikes. Plus, you get to play games, shop online, get news, get updated with your friends’ lives, conduct business, make announcements, and a whole lot more you never thought it would be possible to do on a single site.
Facebook is a blog. A structured blog. Within a big big community.
So what makes it so “private”? Because in the first place, they give you the option of restricting access of content to people you want to give access to. And suddenly, you discover maybe things are not so private anymore because now you realize that Facebook mines data from your profiles, and your contacts’ profiles, if you don’t fix your privacy settings. [cue slight uproar]
Then came Open Graph, a whole new way of looking at ‘social sharing’. [cue major uproar] And this just tipped the bucket, I suppose. Websites like Gizmodo started making Top Ten lists of reasons of why people should quit Facebook. Two really passionate (and I always say this, passionate people are biased – I know I am) Canadian men started a website to get people to pledge to quit Facebook come 31 May.
Okay, so the reasons and arguments presented on websites like Gizmodo sound logical and are compelling. But that’s just good writing. The way Steve Jobs (or his PR people) wrote the article that convinced many that the iPhone really doesn’t need Flash. And as the old adage goes: the pen is mightier than the sword. If you write well (if you have a way with words), you will win the battle.
And as another old saying goes: There are two sides to every coin.
So don’t be caught up by the arguments presented in the lists you see on the internet that are written by brilliant writers who make a living of writing articles to convince people to buy products and services. Have you heard Facebook’s side of the story?
But again, I digress. My point is this:
If each Facebook user had the gumption to put on Facebook only what they are comfortable in revealing on the internet, we wouldn’t have this problem and this whole unnecessary uproar over a privacy issue that never existed (because privacy simply doesn’t exist in this information age). What makes the content you publish on Facebook so differentiated (in terms of privacy) from the content you would put on your blog?
Do you publish notes, random thoughts, photos, email addresses, names of friends on your blog? Chances are, you do.
So why this uproar over Facebook using these data to make your user experience better? Why the uproar over how they use this data to customize what kind of advertisements appear on your Facebook sidebar? Why the uproar over how Facebook makes everything super social, when you accept, from the start, the fact that Facebook is a social networking tool?
In my opinion, there really is no case at all.
If anything, Facebook users need to learn how to: exercise gumption and exercise discretion. And if you don’t know how to do that, perhaps the rest of us on Facebook won’t miss you being on it anyway.
And for the record: Privacy? That’s long gone. If you can’t live with it, you might want to completely stop using the internet completely (and that includes your email).