Facebook Continues To Sell Out Users

    January 4, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

There is no expectation of privacy in public, last I checked. If I’m on the sidewalk in my underwear (yes, I’ve been on the sidewalk in my underwear – it was the Rocky Horror midnight show when I was younger and skinnier) it’s kind of hard to get upset when other people see me. So why should Facebook, or any other social (public) network, be different?

Facebook Continues To Sell Out Users
Beacon was one thing. Tracking people off-site isn’t much different than following them around town and broadcasting their every move – also known as stalking/harassment/paparazzi. It’s even creepier online because it’s like peeping in someone’s window.
The next big concern that appears to be rising is the corporate use of user-uploaded information and content. We’ve had this red flag flapping ever since YouTube videos started appearing on VH1 and other places. Or maybe it was earlier, way back at the first Facebook revolt over the introduction of the Facebook News Feed.
Or more recently…Remember the Virgin Mobile lawsuit?
People don’t seem to grasp the power and reach of the medium at their disposal.
But here’s the thing: when you upload your image, your words, your life to the Web, you don’t really own those things anymore. It’s like saying something you can’t take back. It’s like someone allows you to use their billboard to say what you want to the world around.
How do you get angry when lots of people drop in and read your billboard?
Well, some say it’s not so much the people seeing it. The problem has more to do with the billboard owner copying your billboard and spreading it all over. The billboard owner is covered though. It’s all in the terms of service, which you probably didn’t read.
So, Megan McCarthy at Wired might be right about Facebook’s Social Ads being overshadowed by the Beacon fiasco, and that a privacy debacle sequel is revving up. She shows a screen shot of a Blockbuster ad that uses a Facebook member photo and announcement that the member added an application.
She writes, "there is no notification that you are allowing Blockbuster to use your name and profile picture in a display ad. [Forrester Research senior analyst Jeremiah] Owyang suggests that Facebook ought to inform users up front and make it very clear what "becoming a fan" entails, or change the system to an opt-in model. Currently, there is not even any way to opt-out of participation in Social Ads, other than by avoiding associating yourself with any corporate brands on Facebook."
Yes, Facebook again is being a bit of a jerk, usurping user-uploaded information to its benefit. But do we really expect different behavior? We could get into a moral or ethical discussion, but it still comes back to the user sacrificing a bit of privacy, or at least ownership, for the privilege of using someone else’s network (billboard space).
Facebook has to find a way to make money, or there won’t be a Facebook for long. Sure, they could be nicer about it, but is it too much to assume the public understands that there is no privacy in public?
Maybe so. Only time will tell if Facebook users tolerate it or find another social network that respects their public privacy, or is at least less assuming about their willingness to participate in the business of social networking.