Welcome to the new business model: infringe on your privacy first, ask questions later. Now before I fully delve into the issue of Facebook’s new user privacy settings, I should note that I have always been a proponent of Facebook’s right to pursue what it feels is a profitable and satisfying business model. Capitalism at its finest. I have defended Facebook using what I have termed “The McDonald’s Defense”. Often, consumers demand that businesses comply with outrageous orders. For example, consider the following conversation:
McDonald’s Employee: Welcome to McDonald’s, may I take your order?
Customer: Yes, hi. I would like to order, uhm, a large double unsaturated soy mocha float, and two uncooked vegan tofu gluten-free eggs.
McDonald’s Employee: Uh, sir, we don’t sell those-
Customer: Oh and could those eggs be fried in omega-3 monopolyunsaturated fats from a Komodo dragon?
McDonald’s Employee: **Confused Look** May I help the next customer?
Of course, such a scenario seems ridiculous, but I use it to illustrate the fact that McDonald’s (i.e. Facebook) has the right to refuse service based on what it offers. If you don’t like the way Facebook organizes its privacy controls, or any of its other features, go to Burger King (maybe, MySpace?).
But, what happened to me the other day was not a matter of asking for unreasonable privacy controls, but rather having my privacy infringed upon with a deceptive “opt-out” system. Facebook now has a new “Instant Personalization” feature that allows partner websites to access personal information stored on Facebook’s servers without you knowing. That’s right: FACEBOOK GAVE NO NOTICE OF THIS SERVICE, the only “warning” they gave was a small blue box at the top of each person’s home page that said privacy settings had changed. Only after clicking “Learn More…” and digging to the very last section did I discover the feature. Then, when I tried to disable it, I was confronted with the following confirmation page:
Note that, although I have some of the strictest privacy settings on Facebook (no public search and the only things people who aren’t my friends can do are message me or add me as a friend), I was automatically opted into this Instant Personalization module.
So Facebook, where does that leave us? You’re probably right, the “richness of the social interaction” from these new features is probably worth the hassle of a slight loss of anonymity because they provide so much convenience. But why make it so hard to opt out? Why not notify us about these changes? WHAT INFORMATION ARE YOU GLEANING FROM THESE PROGRAMS THAT MAKE YOU WANT US TO PARTICIPATE SO BADLY? WHAT IS “THE MAN” PAYING YOU?
Please, Mark Zuckerberg, get back to me on that. You know how to reach me: just add “Thaddeus Diamond” as a friend, and click “Share”!