Facebook and Privacy

As many people probably know, Facebook has been hammered recently by concerns over user information and privacy. It’s disconcerting stuff.

I’ve just logged in and changed pretty much all of my privacy settings to make sure my information doesn’t end up in the hands of some distance third party of a third party who accessed it because someone I hadn’t seen in 20 years was my friend on Facebook.

Not that that can happen now, but it seems like a reasonable extension of where Mr Zuckerberg and friends are taking their social behemoth.

I’m not against Facebook, not against using the platform or the services.  But I am against someone using my personal data in the context of my ‘social graph’ for their own financial ends and disguising it as a business plan.

Facebook can’t make sufficient money for its user base because it’s fundamentally not a business. WPP’s chairman Martin Sorrell recently made a statement to this effect, that ‘Social Media is more a personal phenomenon than a business one’. Joseph Jaffe criticized Sorrell on his blog for saying this, but I think missed the core intent of the comment – there is no inherent value in being a medium for social connection.

I think Sorrell was making a statement about the viability of Facebook as a business more than he was commenting on the viability of using Facebook to run/market a business. These are two very different things. If I create a network of people using some fancy new technology, the value of those connections is held and realized by the individuals in the network and the savvy individuals/businesses that can utilize the network for their own means.

It’s not realized by the guy sitting on all the fancy technology used to connect the network in the first place.

Facebook is not worth some squared sum of the connections it facilitates. Up to now, it’s basically worth whatever advertisers want to pay to interrupt people writing daily updates on their virtual walls or playing with their virtual farms.

This being not enough, it now has its sights on using personal data to ‘augment the internet experience’. No thanks. I like your platform, like that it connects me to people I care about, but I can’t give you permission to use my personal information to build a business from. It’s not yours. It’s mine. I don’t care necessarily how private it is (it’s on the web after all, right?), but it’s not a way for you to make money.

This is the essence of the debate to me. It’s not about privacy, it’s about permission. The bargain was that you can bombard me with ads, services, third-party offers, it wasn’t that you could take my social data and use it to make money for yourself.

I can’t wait to see what 4 guys working night and day on only pizza and beer in NY can create!

3 Responses to “Facebook and Privacy”

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