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Facebook Hatin': The Internet Is A Very Public Thing

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Facebook privacy / Getty ImagesFacebook's funny. In about five years it has transformed from a larval collection of collegiate address books to a network for anybody, anywhere to say just about anything. The changes in between have been subtle and blatant, but ever-present tweaks have been the status quo for the hate-the-term-but-what're-ya-gonna-do social network.

Most notably these days, what it's been crucified for — and rightly so, in the business sense — is their brash handling of their privacy policy. Slowly they've eroded true confidentiality in lieu of scattershot opt-out settings. I won't pretend to understand the legality of this gambit, nor should every single one of its eleventy jillion users. But hashing this out is not the best use of our mental acumen.

Instead, there is but one foolproof way to handle this: don't ever — EVER — put something online that you wouldn't want the whole world to know. Ever. End of story. (But not end of article.)

Blogger Kenneth Yeung has a refreshing analysis of how these websites just don't give a shit about privacy. Maybe they don't believe in it. Or possibly they consider online privacy to be negotiable. And you may disagree, but I don't believe in it either.

The Internet is not anyone's private playpen. It never has been, and it never was. Your friends have always been sharing your e-mails, your IMs, and your tweets to other people … perhaps even to those who can't fucking stand you. Breach of privacy! UNSUBSCRIBE FROM THE INTERNET!!1! (But your friend is still cool.)

So far I haven't read about any egregious invasion of privacy. I haven't heard about any users opting out of a program then still had their information disseminated to other companies. And I'm pretty sure no credit card numbers have been leaked to potential online flimflammers.

Instead, it sounds like Facebook has become the face, even the scapegoat, of what the perpetually-wired online user is thirsting to obtain: an unbridled ability to say anything on our minds without consequence. We sort of had this when we were jazzgurl83. (Or at least thought we did before we knew what IP addresses were.) We don't have this as Kimberley Swann, human employee.

If you need to immediately vent about a shitty day at work, it's called "you and an empty room." Or "you driving in your car alone." This works pretty well, I'm told. Also, OnStar doesn't harvest this information and sell it to other companies.

But while this practice of enraged soliloquies has been around since the first Cro-Magnon drama queen, perhaps Facebook also represents another part of the Internet we don't like: change. As mentioned in the opening paragraph (where most people already stopped reading this), it evolves daily — faster than us, actually. We may all remember a specific point in Facebook's history when it was great. The halcyon days of 2007, for example. And this is the case for all of our favorite websites.

But let me see if I understand this logic. Because a website has changed (without MY PERMISSION!) so it can better compete in industry and perhaps monetize itself, suddenly it has sold out and alienated its loyal fanbase. Instead of charging its users a direct fee. Would everyone like to see a website that hasn't changed in over a decade? Perhaps Yahoo! should have stayed the same since 1996.

Of course, general change is a different concept from changes in privacy agreements, but the two are related. But it all goes back to forces we wish we could control but never will. Other websites, other people, and both subsets continually using the term "social network."

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  • Derek

    In one day FB revealed everyone’s friends list to the world (even if you had had it hidden) and revealed everything it’s users were “a fan of” when before they could hide that – all without warning and with the guise that they were improving privacy. It’s the fact that they tried to BS people that caused the most damage to their reputation.

    In addition to this, they recently had an issue where with minor tweaking you could chat as anyone without using any credentials.. huge breach there.

    All Facebook needs to do is add more privacy controls, security test their product, and more clearly communicate changes before they happen.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I agree. It’s like that quote about Computer Security(in as it doesn’t really exist),”If you want your Data to be secure then don’t put it on a Computer”.

    But, I guess this is what happens when you get involved with stupid sites like Facebook,Myspace & Twitter where people post about useless sh!t. And, feel that they are their profile.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/elvira-black Elvira Black

    Great article, Matt. Well, as you say, change happens and people don’t like it. The problem is that privacy is something that shouldn’t be compromised, if the user has not agreed to it.

    Yes, one has to assume that anything one posts on the net can be held against one–and it can if one commits a crime, for instance–but the fact is that greed rearing its ugly little head can lead to consequences of 1984ish proportions.

    The more powerful and all encompassing the technology, the more potential for great good as well as great evil (not to get all Medieval on your ass or anything). Identity theft is a huge problem, for instance. Who would have imagined such a thing decades ago? Sounds like an episode of the twilight zone. But this is our brave new world.

    I for one am not too comfy about the way major search engines have compromised their integrity by allowing China, etc to use their services in censored formats. And China, true to form, had a huge coup recently when hackers broke into top security sites, including government ones, if memory serves.

    It’s one step beyond the Cold War: World War III played out in cyberspace; a fight for information; a bloodless coup.

    Scary.

  • http://www.lynnvoedisch.com Lynn Voedisch

    I went to a seminar at a writers’ conference once where the experts told people to clean up their Facebook accounts. “No pictures of drunken parties,” they said. “People look at that if they are thinking of hiring you.”
    Do you think anyone listened? Of course not! Facebook is the primo place to show off pictures of drunken parties. And so people wonder why they aren’t getting hired, or getting good freelance assignments, or book contracts.
    This stuff matters. You leave a trail on the Internet. And it’s not just Facebook that’s “invading your privacy.” You, yourself, are creating that trail. And it’s up to you if you want to leave a neat trail or if you want to leave some pretty ugly stuff for the crows to peck at.
    Which is saying that I agree with you. The Facebook changes are largely cosmetic. The ethical changes really never bent the rulebook. What’s out there is there because people put it out there. Time for a little self-control, people. You can’t blame this one on Facebook.

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    If companies or people that are thinking of hiring people are put off by learning that real people actually have real lives, it is the companies and their staff that are at fault. There is nothing at all wrong with enjoying one’s life and corporate life, particularly prissy US corporate culture, needs to loosen its tightly pinched buttocks!

    I think the desire for privacy is a sign of either profound insecurity or hypocrisy.

  • Ruvy

    I don’t know about you, Chris, but I don’t like to hire frowzy faced drunks in any business I would run. And unfortunately, I’m seen my share of them on Facebook. I’m not “looking for a job” in the normal sense of the word. I’m a freelance editor. But I keep those photos of me off of my Facebook page. This, in spite of the fact that I’m not any kind of frowzy faced drunk. That said, I do what I can to keep clear of the tight assed tight-wad US corporate culture….

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    Ruvy, the fact that someone has been drunk doesn’t mean that they are “frowzy faced drunks”. I don’t care what somebody’s lifestyle is, just whether they can do their job, and I know an awful lot of fairly straight edge people who are pretty incompetent…

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    too bad those writing “experts” weren’t on hand to help Hemingway, Bukowski, Kerouac, et. al. with their careers

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Throw Balzac into the bunch. And James Joyce.

  • http://www.joannehuspek.wordpress.com Joanne Huspek

    You put the stuff out there, you have to expect that someone at some time can dredge it up. The Internet and the information on it NEVER goes away, and not only on Facebook. I like a good party every once in a while too, but I remember that if I want to keep my dignity and credibility, I shouldn’t post drinking pictures.

    I’m more annoyed with Facebook over their IM feature. Every time someone IMs me, it locks up my computer and I have to reboot. Now there’s a real problem.