Facebook doesn’t give a shit if you don’t trust them

Ah Facebook, you sure like to jerk around the tech pundits in the blogosphere don’t you. Take for example that last privacy flap where you turned everything on by default and then left it up to users to opt-out.

The thing is you knew that the large majority of your users wouldn’t, or couldn’t be bothered about the whole silly privacy thing. All they want to do is get logged in as quickly as possible to see how their FarmVille; or some other such stupid social game, was doing.

But when the digerati called you up on the carpet over the change you quickly flashed the fact that 35% of the people that had logged in had made changes. What exact changes we’re not sure .. maybe they just left everything the same and clicked on the Next button as quickly as they could because they could hear that cow calling them from FarmVille.

Wow 35% though .. that sounds pretty good eh. Yup it sure does, until you turn that into real numbers and then compare it to their stated user number of 500 million. In this case 35% works out to 175 million give or take a couple of million. That leaves 325 million users who didn’t make any changes to their new auto opt-in privacy settings.

So over half of the Facebook members couldn’t careless how; or with whom, their information is being shared. Not a bad number of people to make money off of don’t you think; and all at the cost of having to put up with a few irritated bloggers who Facebook doesn’t really need hanging around anyway as they are always gumming up the works with their big  mouths.

Now we come to the latest announcements to come out the Facebook f8 developer conference and have the digerati natives getting all restless again.

First about this new Universal Like button – who freaking cares anymore. Really, it not like this is anything new except that this is Facebook so really this is just another move to monopolize the Web by any means possible.

Next up we have the Facebook let me pollute your site some more toolbar that will sit at the bottom of the webpage you are on and let you do …. well we’re not sure yet but I am sure it will be cool and feed even more information to Facebook to parse for ads and sell to marketers. Whoopee .. I’m so excited.

Now that we’ve made it through those web experience changing features to come we come to the real example of how Facebook doesn’t care what the digerati think. Yes folks Facebook has once again changed its privacy policy in advance of creating an automatically opted-in special Facebook Connect.

Just think of it folks.

You happen upon one of Facebook’s pre-approved sites and suddenly you start seeing a whole bunch of Facebook related stuff even though you didn’t sign into the site using the traditional Facebook Connect mechanism. As Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch explains

Imagine what will happen the first time Joe Facebooker visits a third-party site he’s never been to and is greeted by the smiling faces of his friends, his most recent shared updates, and content tailored to his gender, location, and age. There’s a decent chance he’s going to assume something has gone terribly, terribly wrong — maybe he’s been hacked or phished. Or maybe he’ll realize that the privacy wizard he went through last December wasn’t as benign as he thought.

Needless to say this has a segment of the tech blogosphere up in arms – as they should be. The problem is that Facebook couldn’t care less. They already have a track record of abusing user trust and privacy that only changes if the noise gets too loud. At which point they just switch to Plan B which for all we know could have been Plan A.

When it comes right down to it Facebook doesn’t care if we trust them or not – they’ve gotten too big for that to really worry them. Sure it’s inconvenient but in the end the numbers are on Facebook’s side. If over 350 million users couldn’t have cared less the last time that Facebook pulled this kind of crap what makes you think it will be any different – seriously.

The only thing that Facebook cares about is converting all those 350 million plus sucker (and growing daily) into a cash cow that could literally rival and surpass Google. It doesn’t care how it gets there. It doesn’t care what it has to do to become the default for the Web.  The last thing they care about regardless of any PR to the contrary is whether some small loud irritating group of bloggers and tech pundits trust them or not.

When push comes to shove you have two alternatives when it comes to Facebook. Either get sucked into their vortex of the Web or delete your account.

It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

10 Comments

  1. 27/03/10 at 21:53

    I personally think the reason they are continuing to grow is because they are pushing the privacy boundaries. This debate was going on when Facebook encouraged people to use their real names, a foreign (and scary) concept at the time. There is a reason (yes, beyond Farmville) that Facebook is growing like a weed in a field of stale corn, it is because they are willing to continue push the boundaries.

    But, your point mentioning that Facebook is too big to care, that is very true as well. They can get away with murder at this point, but I do not think that is what they are doing, nor do I think they are abusing peoples privacy.

    My tweet last night sums up my thoughts:

    Facebook will never please the bloggers. FB is the company pushing the boundaries that we will expect as norm by noon and great ideas tmrrw
    .-= Holden Page´s last blog ..Seesmic, The Perfect Broken Pieces of a Mirror =-.

    • 28/03/10 at 11:26

      Holden the question has to be asked – why do they need to push the privacy boundaries? What is wrong with what few boundaries we have left? Who is benefiting from this chipping away at our privacy boundaries.

      In the end it all boils down the fact that Facebook can’t make money as long as we try to hold on to our belief in privacy – of any kind.

  2. 28/03/10 at 10:45

    Facebook doesn’t care about trust or privacy but the problem is that most of the people who use Facebook don’t either.

    In some ways Facebook is just a mirror to our own apathy around privacy. I wish it weren’t the case but … Facebook gets away with it because we let them.

    Just like we give our social security number out without thinking about it, or hand over a form of ID to verify a credit card purchase, even though we don’t have to. Nor are we at all concerned with how those credit agencies share our information.

    No, there’s often a lot of noise around privacy but when push comes to shove there’s often little action … and Facebook knows it.
    .-= AJ Kohn´s last blog ..Display Advertising and SEO =-.

    • 28/03/10 at 11:28

      You got it exactly right AJ .. Facebook is counting on the general population apathy regarding this kind of thing and anyone who doesn’t think this apathy exists is an idiot. Just look to England or even the US and Canada in regards to ACTA ( taking bets on exactly how many people actually know what that is).

      Apathy rules and it will make Facebook a very rich company.

  3. 28/03/10 at 11:10

    Each of Facebook’s privacy blunders over the years smack of desperation… for valuation, if not a business model. Now that it has the user base, it doesn’t mind abusing it to further its goals.

    Facebook as an organization is socially immature, kind of like a four-year-old. Facebook doen’t respect the range of its users’ wants. It would be so easy to provide proper defaults and controls, but Facebook *chooses* to force everyone into what it thinks is its profit-maximizing model, fully knowing that most people don’t understand the ramifications. But backlash is waiting in the wings. It may come from users, or it may come from regulators.

    Even Google, who is often portrayed as the ubiquitous all-seeing eye, provides users with meaningful defaults and options, and is also responsive to privacy issues that arise (e.g., Buzz).

    I’d suggest that anyone who cavalierly brushes aside desires for privacy in the social context to read at least the following articles, with an open mind:

    http://www.danah.org/papers/talks/2010/SXSW2010.html
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=998565
    http://www.wired.com/politics/security/commentary/securitymatters/2006/05/70886

    • 28/03/10 at 11:30

      the only thing I would question LE is … were these really blunders or were they actually calculated move used to gauge just how far they could go?

      • 28/03/10 at 12:57

        Yes, I do think they are very calculated. There are lots of smart people working at these companies, and I’d be more surprised if they weren’t gaming the potential outcomes. That’s why I use the term desperation… it’s a calculated risk to push the bounds of business advantage while simultaneously pushing the bounds of what (most) users will be too lazy/apathetic to rebel against.

        Facebook’s December changes were asserted to be, in part, an answer to the legal objections of Canada’s privacy commissioner and rumblings in US and other government agencies, but of course Facebook just made the privacy situation worse while babbling a lot of marketing doublespeak. The law is slow (especially compared to tech), but we can only hope that at some point it will have some teeth.