I’m no expert, but I think Facebook has it wrong

You may have heard that Facebook is improving things again. This time, it isn’t a re-design of your home page; it’s a re-design of your privacy.  I’m not an expert, and I’m certainly not shy about sharing who I am and what I’m about, but I think, this time, Facebook has it wrong.  Why? Two reasons:

  1. Facebook didn’t give users an option to protect their information – it’s connect on their terms or delete at least some of your information.
  2. Facebook didn’t make a key new change, called “Instant Personalization”, an opt-in feature. Meaning, unless you change the setting yourself, your profile information is available to sites outside Facebook in order to allow them to serve you their own content based on your interests (as presented on Facebook by your likes, connections, personal data, etc.).

In the latest version, Facebook is helping us be more social by sharing the information we each added to our “Info” tab fields with others who have the same information. You may have no objection to this because you added that information to share with your Facebook Friends. It is the premise behind social networking, after all, isn’t it? Find people with whom we have common interests and get to know one another. I think Facebook’s intention is to enhance the social experience, and I agree there may be networking value there but I don’t want it forced on me.

With this update, Facebook is making connections for us by connecting everyone who lists a band, a movie, a book, a school, a town, a workplace, and so on, to one another by default.  Not as a Friend, but through Pages. If it hasn’t happened yet, you’ll likely soon be greeted with a request to convert your profile. It isn’t optional, but you can choose with which pages you’d like to connect. Be aware, the ones you choose to omit with have their corresponding entry deleted from your profile. In addition, there are instances wherein community pages for an entry will be created, but the concept isn’t fully fleshed out. Read Facebook’s description of these connections here.

For example, my “Work” entry stated I’m the owner of Verbitude, which is my DBA name for my writing, coaching and speaking work. When Facebook connected me based on the word Verbitude, it made me wonder, since I concocted it a while back and Google returned 0 results for it at the time.  There are no other employees, so I clicked to find out what happened. The connection? A spoken word and slam poetry event. [insert laugh track here while I delete my workplace from my profile, and add the website in a different location] Really, Facebook, you couldn’t have done better with that? Fun with keywords 101.

Instant Personalization could  seem like a natural extension of the existing “Facebook Connect” feature which allows websites outside Facebook to let you log-in to their site to comment, for example, without creating a site-specific username.  However, Facebook is now making specific sites privy to your information and interactions unless you opt out. There are only a few now, but I expect that to increase since it has huge marketing upside. I don’t mind a website technology that uses my information wisely. I do mind my information being given away without my choosing to do so.

What did I do? I allowed most of my information to be deleted, and will add back those details as I better understand how that works “in everyday use”. It needed updating anyway, most of that info has been there since I joined the site years ago.

There is a lot about the internet many people don’t understand; in my opinion, these changes take advantage of that. My recommendation? Don’t connect online beyond your understanding and comfort level. Take some time to read Facebook’s Terms of Service (you had to agree to them to join, but they change and maybe you didn’t read them in the first place). After that, go to your Facebook account menu, click on privacy, and go through each section to ensure that your information is being used and displayed in a manner you choose.

4 Responses to “I’m no expert, but I think Facebook has it wrong”

  1. Michelle
    April 23, 2010 at 1:33 pm #

    Good stuff to know, Patti. I haven’t gotten any messages from Facebook and didn’t even know there was a change until one of my friends pointed out the Instant Personalization update, which I immediately opted out of. Now I’m going to poke around the “Connections” FAQ and try to get a better handle on what’s going on.

  2. Suzanne Vara
    April 25, 2010 at 1:28 am #

    Patti

    You bring up many valid points here. I think it comes down to how private you keep or want to keep your FB. Those that have allowed 3rd party apps have already allowed their profile to be shared but for those that do not engage in the games, horoscopes,etc have chosen to keep their info private. I fall into the latter.

    From a marketing standpoint, this is a dream. You get to find out where people work, what they like to read, what they like to listen to … but we knew that already, if you were friends. Now we are abler to connect with people who like the same band. That is great but do I want every Aerosmith fan to see pics of my son? No. There are boundaries to everything but here I see this as FB trying to be more open as their privacy was pretty tight. As a business owner and a marketer, I like it of course but as a user, not a fan.

    I am really on the fence here as it could be good for the business to be exposed but at what level? My personal page is just that … personal. The biz page, is free reign as is my website, twitter, LI, this comment, etc. but my FB personal page, I am not so sure. Is this just a preview of what is to come? I see and have heard rumors that FB LIKE button will be like stumbleupon and digg and also be like a foursquare and gowalla where you can check in. If that is the direction, again for the biz, sure but for personal, no, not for me. I want a place to share photos, vids about my son that I would not do elsewhere.

    Love to see what others are thinking.

    Great article Patti, I enjoyed it.

    @SuzanneVara

  3. The Thief
    May 27, 2010 at 9:21 am #

    I deleted all of the info in that section because I didn’t want to be linked.

  4. Chris Schaffner
    May 27, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    Thanks for this info Patti. It’s easy to get lost in all of this stuff.

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