Thursday, April 22, 2010

Facebook to users: Screw privacy

Facebook proposed changes to it's privacy policy and put them online for people to comment on. After reviewing all of the comments, Facebook posted a response here. I would recommend that you read the response, even if you never read the new policy. It is full of information that I'm sure Facebook never intended to release, the biggest revelation being that Facebook considers it their right to use your content - although they claim the privacy policy limits how they can use it. Two of the responses seem to reveal the lie in that to me - I'm going to deconstruct them as I go:
Will Facebook take my creative works and use them for profit?

A number of users raised concerns similar to the following comment: “I am an artist. This section makes me nervous. Does this mean that Facebook plans to sell the artwork, photos or music that I post?” Facebook has never sold its users’ creative works, and has no intention of doing so in the future.

That's cool. Just the way it should be.

But you should be aware that Facebook does try to derive revenue from its website – such as through advertising – and your content appears on our website.

There shouldn't be a butt I mean but, here.

That said, this section limits our use of your content in two important ways that protect you. First, the rights you give Facebook are “subject to your Privacy Settings.” This means, for example, that if you set your privacy settings so that only your friends can see a photo, we cannot show that photo to anyone but your friends.

Hmmm...but in the past the default is to share with everyone. So Facebook is setting the default to share only with friends? Somehow I doubt it.

Similarly, if you opt out of Social Ads in your Privacy Settings, we will respect your decision.

You'd better, but will I ever know?

Second, the license you give us ends when you delete your copyrighted content. This means that the minute you delete it, we will no longer use your content except in the ways we articulate in section 2.

Hold up. Once I delete it, you shouldn't have any rights to my content. Also, unless you take the steps to copyright your Facebook content, it's not copyrighted, which means Facebook can use it. Facebook, you can delete section 2 right now!

And the second section that bothers me:
How will Facebook use, share, and store my content?

Facebook needs the right to use, share, and store your content in order to provide Facebook to you and your friends.

No, you could have chosen another business model. But you chose to use a model that requires you to trick us into releasing data we might not want released.

Our Privacy Policy explains what content we use, share, and store, and includes a number of examples (as do some of our responses to this section). In addition, your Privacy Settings give you the ability to direct and control how we use and share your content.

But only if we hunt them down and change them and never do anything that negates those settings. The default should be not to share - but Mr. Zuckerberg knows that the default setting is the one that most people will keep without thinking, so opt-out gives him more moneymaking power than opt-in.

Who am I kidding. I didn't like any of the replies to users objections. Mark Zuckerbergs announcement yesterday just reinforces my belief that Facebook is not responding to changing social norms, but is trying to push those norms in a direction that benefits Facebooks bottom line, not the interests users of the service.

David Goldman, staff writer for, covered Facebooks f8 developers conference Wednesday and saw a number of problematic privacy changes. However much more control you may have to make things more private, that control is easily lost: Users will be asked to convert their interests into fan pages:
"Is one of your interests "The Beatles?" Well, now you're a fan of The Beatles. By default, users will receive notifications from their fan pages in their news feed.

Doesn't sound like such a big deal, but here's the kicker: Users who choose to convert their interests to "pages" will lose privacy control with the new changes. Many parts of users' profiles, including hometowns, birthdays, education, religion and work interests would be considered "connections" if a user converts them, making them public to anyone."

Goody! I can create fan pages, but only if I'm willing to give up control of my own information. That's extortion - although in my case they wouldn't find much on my pages, but they shouldn't have the opportunity unless I explicitly give it to them. Facebook is starting to change their privacy policy on an almost monthly basis. Privacy policies should be relatively static, only changing when not changing would cause problems. In light of Facebooks continuing push to take control of my data I've deactivated my Facebook account. If I try to do anything beyond exchanging messages with friends I negate the privacy settings, and it's only a matter of time before Facebook gives up any pretense and says, "To use our site you grant us full use of your content." I'm not willing to do that.