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May 17, 2010 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Is Facebook violating your privacy, or are you just oversharing? Facebook status updates are searchable through the Graph API.
posted by monospace (151 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
ReclaimPrivacy.org
posted by fixedgear at 9:17 AM on May 17, 2010 [27 favorites]


It looks like it only finds results for people who have set their Wall to public.
posted by sebas at 9:19 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Speaking of status updates, is it possible for me to download them somehow that doesn't involve me just endlessly hitting the "older posts" link? Or are they just gone, gone?
posted by nevercalm at 9:20 AM on May 17, 2010


Only status updates from people who make their status updates public, right?
posted by escabeche at 9:20 AM on May 17, 2010


Is Facebook violating your privacy, or are you just oversharing?

It's pretty fucking annoying to have to routinely examine my FB privacy settings to see if Mark Zuckerberg has decided to install some new snooping application, or disable my privacy settings in some way.

Sure, some people are oversharing, but it's only because Facebook changes the rules and doesn't tell anyone when they do it.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:21 AM on May 17, 2010 [64 favorites]


Only status updates from people who make their status updates public, right?

Facebook Pages (the thing that your interests got absorbed into) harvests keyword-matched private status updates as well.
posted by griphus at 9:21 AM on May 17, 2010


I took a class on gender and computerization last semester, and one of the things I talked about in my final presentation was how where you used to have things you were a fan of (I was a fan of Sarah Palin, of course) and that was just something on your profile, now you have things that you Like which are shared with search engines. Combine this with the horrifying misogyny present on Facebook and I believe that we are coming toward an era in which prospective employers will research prospective employees and discover that John Q. Randomguy likes Killing Your Hooker So You Don't Have To Pay Her, or that he likes It's Not Rape If You Yell Surprise! or whatever.

So there's an upside is what I'm saying.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:25 AM on May 17, 2010 [11 favorites]


Also,

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard

Zuck: Just ask.

Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS

[Redacted Friend's Name]: What? How'd you manage that one?

Zuck: People just submitted it.

Zuck: I don't know why.

Zuck: They "trust me"

Zuck: Dumb fucks.

posted by Pope Guilty at 9:26 AM on May 17, 2010 [24 favorites]


Actually, this kind of amusing.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:26 AM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


horrifying misogyny present on Facebook
I deleted my account last week so I can't get back on to verify, but doesn't this depend on who your friends are? I don't recall any misogyny, horrifying or otherwise, during my time there.
posted by sanko at 9:28 AM on May 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


Combine this with the horrifying misogyny present on Facebook

[I don't use FB, so this is a request for information, not snark.]

What horrifying misogyny? You seem to imply this is a structural problem with FB's design, rather than a consequence of the people you interact with?
posted by Leon at 9:28 AM on May 17, 2010


Is Facebook violating your privacy, or are you just oversharing?

Little of column a, little of column b.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:28 AM on May 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


Facebook: An uneducated consumer is our best customer!
posted by spicynuts at 9:29 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Every one of you is fired!
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:29 AM on May 17, 2010


Perfect example KokuRyu. If you click that button and then click the "having a wank" link, and scroll down a couple of pages, you find:
[name redacted] Guest wat as pakis and having a wank got in commen....................we all like to knock one out nar and again
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:29 AM on May 17, 2010


10th circle of hell
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 9:31 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Re: horrifying misogyny: both of those Liked things I mentioned are real groups (though the prostitute-killing one was removed after people complained about it). Do some searches.

For example, I searched for "bitches" and found such fun results in the top search results as "Fuck Bitches", "Why Men Marry Bitches", "I hate dumb bitches", "I hate stupid bitches", "Too many BITCHES not enough Kennels", and that's just one search term. I don't think it's any more pervasive than any other social networking site; that it's in a forum in which people use their real names makes it utterly bizarre.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:35 AM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sure, some people are oversharing, but it's only because Facebook changes the rules and doesn't tell anyone when they do it.

When did it become status quo to trust a for-profit ad-sale-based company with incriminating information linked to your real name regardless of what any sort of privacy policy says or not?
posted by griphus at 9:36 AM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, for my age chohort (35-50) I have a considerable amount of FB "friends" (400+), but I quickly "defriend" anyone who posts ignorant comments.

Anyway, I don't use my real name on Facebook, don't include any personal information, such as address, telephone number, main email address, birthday, anniversary, etc.

I just use Facebook to interact with old friends from 20 years ago who have scattered across the world, friends from Japan, where I used to live, as well as people I had only ever interacted with on listservs or through blogs before FB, and that's really gratifying.

But I think the key is to limit your personal information, limit the amount of applications you use on FB, and lock them down. So, what with my quasi-pseudonym and lack of personal information (plus my efforts to avoid saying anything inflammatory on FB), I feel like my privacy is not really at risk.

The only thing I am nervous about is the ability for FB to track me across domains, so I usually open FB in Chrome's incognito mode.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:37 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's any more pervasive than any other social networking site

All human life is here.
posted by Leon at 9:38 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty: With that query, what were you expecting? "0 results found for 'bitches'"? On a site with more than 400 million active users?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:39 AM on May 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Well to be honest "Why Men Marry Bitches" is a book. So it might be a fan site for the book. As far as killing whores, etc...I got nothin.
posted by spicynuts at 9:41 AM on May 17, 2010


Marrying Bitches

Loving Bitches
posted by spicynuts at 9:42 AM on May 17, 2010


Do you have to pay cash money yet to use FaceBook? Or is this still complaining about the rules for playing in that "free" playground your neighbor set up out of the goodness of his heart at the same time as you complain about the features it doesn't offer?

I don't get it...

Don't like it? Don't use it!
posted by chavenet at 9:44 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sure, some people are oversharing, but it's only because Facebook changes the rules and doesn't tell anyone when they do it.

A thousand times this.

And guess what? Normal sharing among friends is "too much sharing" when you have stalkers or abusive ex's. Or, you know, non-mainstream religious or political beliefs.

The whole fiasco with Google's attempt that made things terrible was that a lot of folks, like activists in China now had their business on blast for the government to identify them.

It's one thing when you tell people that what they put will be public. It's another to say it's private then slam it into public and force people to look up how to opt out.
posted by yeloson at 9:47 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


...that "free" playground your neighbor set up out of the goodness of his heart...

More like that "free" playground your neighbor set up to pay his rent by transcribing your conversations for market research.
posted by griphus at 9:48 AM on May 17, 2010 [25 favorites]


Combine this with the horrifying misogyny present on Facebook

As you say, it's present on other sites as well. There are neo-nazi groups on Livejournal. Someone would have to be a total idiot to assume that because I have an account on that site, every other person with an LJ is also a neo-nazi. If a potential employer were to do that, it would probably be wise for people to think long and hard about whether working for them would be a good idea.

For example, I searched for "bitches" and found such fun results in the top search results as "Fuck Bitches", "Why Men Marry Bitches", "I hate dumb bitches", "I hate stupid bitches", "Too many BITCHES not enough Kennels", and that's just one search term. I don't think it's any more pervasive than any other social networking site; that it's in a forum in which people use their real names makes it utterly bizarre.

Lots of users don't use their real names. I have four friends on my list who use pseudonyms on Facebook, including one who spells out her initials (so her first name looks like "JayEss") so her extended family won't stalk her.
posted by zarq at 9:52 AM on May 17, 2010


Or is this still complaining about the rules for playing in that "free" playground your neighbor set up out of the goodness of his heart at the same time as you complain about the features it doesn't offer?

Yup, nice Mr. Jones. Nothing's too good for the neighbourhood kids. As long as he can take pictures of them in the playground, share them with his friends ...
posted by philip-random at 9:54 AM on May 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's one thing when you tell people that what they put will be public. It's another to say it's private then slam it into public and force people to look up how to opt out.

Absolutely.

My FB account settings are (mostly) set to "Friends Only." These services should be off by default and opt-in. so we don't have to worry about whether a new feature is suddenly making our settings moot.
posted by zarq at 9:55 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


These services should be off by default and opt-in. so we don't have to worry about whether a new feature is suddenly making our settings moot.

What? Not from their perspective as a company out to make money. If you've got most of the market share, why wouldn't you want to have the least amount of privacy on by default and make turning it on a Byzantine process?
posted by griphus at 9:59 AM on May 17, 2010


Combine this with the horrifying misogyny present on Facebook and I believe that we are coming toward an era in which prospective employers will research prospective employees ...

And discover that those misogynists shared webspace with queers and radicals and commies!

A week or so ago Facebook gave me an...option, via a popup window, to either tell EVERYONE what networks I'm in, or not have any networks. It used to be that I could be findable/viewable to other people in those networks if they were friends or friends of friends, but now, no such choice. So I deleted the networks. I think I've found or been found by anyone I actually liked in high school and college anyway.
posted by rtha at 9:59 AM on May 17, 2010


For example, I searched for "bitches"
So - you went looking for misogyny and found it. Amazing. It's like some weird anti-rule-34.
posted by sanko at 10:03 AM on May 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


It beckons...
posted by Burhanistan at 10:05 AM on May 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I never opened a Facebook account for two reasons:

1) "Friending" someone I didn't really consider a friend. Thank you, I do not need my language overloaded and distorted by marketspeak.

2) Witnessing Facebook drama. Facebook seems to put everyone back in some kind of Borgesian high school, infinitely extended. Interminable. This is especially bad for Americans, where the gravitational field of high school distorts spacetime even more than in most countries. Oversharing in high school is a vector straight into the black hole.

The privacy leak was to be understood. Maybe a Presidential candidate thirty years from now will have shots of her taking Olympic-sized hits off of a bong in high school and she's say, "So?" and that will be the end of it. Everyone has the occasional chuckle about it during her second term. Perhaps politics and high-profile employment will be survival of the most boring.

Keeping personal details out of the indexes of search engines is simply beyond most people's scope of forethought. They'll flip when it comes back on them, but it's basically antivirus and patch updates — precious few bother.
posted by adipocere at 10:09 AM on May 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


(Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think PG's point about "bitches" etcetera was more "Gee it's nice that these assholes out themselves on Facebook" and less "OMG FACEBOOK IS A TERRIBLE PLACE.")
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:09 AM on May 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Only status updates from people who make their status updates public, right?

FB has changed the definition of "public" multiple times in the last few years.
posted by DU at 10:11 AM on May 17, 2010 [11 favorites]


For the other issue you have with Facebook, there's now Farmvillain novelty wall updates. It's like Wacky Packages, but for Web 2.0.

And it's just about the only app on Facebook that doesn't ask for access to your personal info to work.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:13 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe Facebook should have a "pubic" setting instead.

(A-and I can't wait for the inevitable "OpenAssBook" ... everything on the internets slouches toward GOATSE.)
posted by chavenet at 10:15 AM on May 17, 2010


FB has changed the definition of "public" multiple times in the last few years.

Yes, but the multiplication has ramped up even more in the last few weeks.
posted by blucevalo at 10:16 AM on May 17, 2010


FB has changed the definition of "public" multiple times in the last few years.

Given this, are my status updates from circa 2007 probably public by now? Is there a tool I can use to periodically delete all of my updates older than, say, two weeks?
posted by tantivy at 10:18 AM on May 17, 2010



Don't like it? Don't use it!

Except....here's the thing. The real problem is the bait and switch that's been going on--with new rollbacks and changes more than once a year. I resisted joining for years, but when I finally did, the privacy filters available were still quite robust (you could hide just about everything, including photo, location, friends list, search results, etc.). Since then, facebook has become an invaluable tool for maintaining and deeping some relationships with some long-lost, far flung folks. At the same time, privacy has gradually been eroded (to the point where I wouldn't have signed up if I knew how much info was available publicly at this point)....but the people I want to stay in touch with the most are the least tech-savvy, and probably won't be jumping to the next platform any time soon.
posted by availablelight at 10:18 AM on May 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Facebook is like the friend who acts like you can trust him but then tells everyone else about your sexual impotence with blinding speed. He makes it feel like it's a good idea to share, when it probably isn't. Then he tells Pfizer that you'd probably appreciate some targeted marketing.

Aside from a consistent privacy system, Facebook also needs to add a "WOAH, COWBOY! EVERYONE CAN SEE YOUR WALL! ARE YOU SURE YOU WANNA SHARE THAT?!" disclaimer popup.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:20 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, I guess people don't read Dooce to know not to post anything about work/boss.

Save it for "I just tooted" updates. Share the love.
posted by stormpooper at 10:23 AM on May 17, 2010


This is why I have a keylogger on my laptops at home and I know my kids' passwords.* I am not a helicopter parent by any stretch but until they are savvy enough to recognize when their privacy is at risk, or when a "youthful indiscretion" crosses a line as far as university/scholarship/employment is concerned, etc., then I am going to cover their asses by going through and opting out every couple of weeks.

I don't think anyone who posts on metafilter is at significant risk now or even down the line --- the people who are at risk are the ones who will grow up and come of age after the concept of privacy has become just another bait-and-switch marketing tactic. Because although I am on facebook to connect with cousins and old college and work friends now & then and I can take it or leave it, my kids use it all the time, for IM, on their walls, and as their email of choice. I'm not facebook's target market (in fact they're probably happy to get rid of nonconsumers like me), but my kids are, and the kids coming up behind them are fresh meat. By the time those kids are grown, we'll be much further along this slippery slope.

*Yes I've made it clear to them that our computers are 100% public and they should act as though I'm reading everything they write (which I don't).
posted by headnsouth at 10:25 AM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


What? Not from their perspective as a company out to make money.

There are other business models.

If you've got most of the market share, why wouldn't you want to have the least amount of privacy on by default and make turning it on a Byzantine process?

Other services have not needed to do so to survive. Livejournal has allowed people to create private blogs for years. Any user can create a blog and keep just about the entire thing out of the public eye if they want to.
posted by zarq at 10:26 AM on May 17, 2010


2) Witnessing Facebook drama. Facebook seems to put everyone back in some kind of Borgesian high school, infinitely extended. Interminable. This is especially bad for Americans, where the gravitational field of high school distorts spacetime even more than in most countries. Oversharing in high school is a vector straight into the black hole.

Interesting. Perhaps it's just that most of mine are in their 30's, 40's and 50's, but this hardly ever happens with my friends. Age is not a reliable indicator of mental maturity, of course. But still, it's all very low-drama, and low-oversharing.
posted by zarq at 10:30 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pope Guilty: With that query, what were you expecting? "0 results found for 'bitches'"? On a site with more than 400 million active users?

Someone would have to be a total idiot to assume that because I have an account on that site, every other person with an LJ is also a neo-nazi. If a potential employer were to do that, it would probably be wise for people to think long and hard about whether working for them would be a good idea.

And discover that those misogynists shared webspace with queers and radicals and commies!

(Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think PG's point about "bitches" etcetera was more "Gee it's nice that these assholes out themselves on Facebook" and less "OMG FACEBOOK IS A TERRIBLE PLACE.")

Yeah, my point was not "OMG MISOGYNY ON FACEBOOK!" so much as "Hey, awesome, now they can cheerfully out themselves!" Then sanko was all like "really, give me examples" and I went and found some and was like "here, have some examples", and he was all "you looked for examples and found some? who cares?" and I was all confused.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:33 AM on May 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Don't like it? Don't use it!

To second availablelight, as odious as using Facebook can be sometimes, it can sometimes be very useful or even necessary as a means of getting or remaining in touch with people, particularly non-tech-savvy people. Bafflingly, I know many people rely on Facebook messages where email would work just as well, and refuse to use email even though it's (marginally) more private than anything you let FB get its grubby mitts on. What's more, the "exit costs" are high if you want to get off the grid, FB-wise; plenty of people rely on FB to tell them what their peers' addresses, birthdays, and so on, are. They will also turn out to be allergic to email, Skype, etc. as ways of keeping in touch with you; they will want to have their "conversations" in public as a chain of wall-postings.

YMMV, but after scaling down my profile (without deleting it completely) I was set upon as a pitiable luddite. I still find it useful enough to maintain an account, but I log into it with my nose held between index finger and thumb.
posted by a small part of the world at 10:34 AM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was all confused.

Welcome to my default state. :D

That makes more sense, thanks for explaining!
posted by zarq at 10:34 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


And there's a reason why you don't get asked "hey are you on LiveJournal?" very much outside of Harry Potter Fanfic Writer meetups and DragonCon. Facebook is not a blog community. It exists to facilitate a completely different set of needs for a completely different audience who are susceptible to completely different advertising. It is also considerably less organized. Five or six years ago, every little action LJ made to any policy ended with the entire community shitting itself at once. Facebook is too fragmented, too full of non tech-savvy individuals and the users can be taken advantage of much easier. I am not saying what Facebook is doing is good or that there aren't other models that work. I am saying that they've figured out the best model to maximize profit using something that a majority of users either don't care about or don't know is in danger -- their privacy.
posted by griphus at 10:35 AM on May 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Other services have not needed to do so to survive. Livejournal has allowed people to create private blogs for years. Any user can create a blog and keep just about the entire thing out of the public eye if they want to.

Part of what I absolutely love about Livejournal is that you can create as many filters as you wish- you can enable different levels of privacy on a per-post basis, and those levels aren't cumulative unless you make them cumulative. They've had this privacy model that is more sophisticated than the one offered by nearly every other blog/social networking site for longer than most social networking sites have existed. It's a classic example of somebody getting it mostly right and everybody else just sort of ignoring it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:35 AM on May 17, 2010 [11 favorites]


Five or six years ago, every little action LJ made to any policy ended with the entire community shitting itself at once.

There's still plenty of drama with every LJ news update.

And yes, the levels of privacy allowed on LJ makes it immediately superior to other blogging platforms. I've heard DreamWidth is even better (decoupling the reads/can be read by "friend" relationship, for example) but I haven't really explored it much.
posted by kmz at 10:45 AM on May 17, 2010


headnsouth, I would like to thank you. I've seen so many instances of helicoptering and snooping go terribly awry. Yours is perhaps the best counter-example I have seen. The whole Strangeland "chat room child molester" thing is so overblown (if your kid is at risk, you already know whoever it is), but damn if dumb things kids do can't follow them for decades on the Web.
posted by adipocere at 10:48 AM on May 17, 2010


(decoupling the reads/can be read by "friend" relationship, for example)

This is just the default filtering. Every LJ account has a "friends" group, which consists of all of the users the owner of that account has added. By default, when you click on your friendspage, that is the list of accounts whose recent updates you will see (mixed in with your communities and RSS feeds from other sites), and by default, the friends-only permission level on your posts means that those posts are visible to anyone you have friended.

The filter system, however, allows you to set up as many filters as you want, and each one can be configured to contain whichever combination of users you want to have access to that filter. You can then view a friendslist consisting solely of people on that filter or restrict reading access to posts to those people. I believe you can even set your default reading and access filter to a user-created filter.

Like I say, it's pretty great, and it's part of why I'll probably be on Livejournal for the foreseeable future.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:50 AM on May 17, 2010


I am saying that they've figured out the best model to maximize profit using something that a majority of users either don't care about or don't know is in danger -- their privacy.

It certainly seems as if more and more people are beginning to care.
posted by zarq at 10:54 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't have to worry about privacy on LJ, because no one's added me as a friend on there. It's rather liberating.
posted by hellojed at 10:57 AM on May 17, 2010


It certainly seems as if more and more people are beginning to care.

I hope this is true. I hope that, like LiveJournal, enough people will rise up and say "hey, this is bullshit!" and have something happen. But I doubt it. Why? Because I'll bet the overlap between users threatening to quit Facebook over privacy issues and users running NoScript and AdBlock is almost even. And Facebook doesn't give a shit about those people. They care about headnsouth's kids, to whom everpresent advertising is unobtrusive because it has always been there. Because they never had to spend a night figuring out a way to rig Netscape to stop showing Tripod popup ads. Facebook doesn't need users concerned about their privacy because these users just take up space.
posted by griphus at 10:58 AM on May 17, 2010


And there's a reason why you don't get asked "hey are you on LiveJournal?" very much outside of Harry Potter Fanfic Writer meetups and DragonCon.

You say that as if it's a bad thing.
posted by hellojed at 11:00 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can set a default view filter (which I use) but as far as I know you can't set a default "can be read by" filter. I suppose it's easy enough to always check a custom group whenever you post. Anyway, as I said it's not a big enough deal that I've jumped ship or anything, though I have lots of people on my flist who have. They did it mostly for philosophical reasons though.
posted by kmz at 11:01 AM on May 17, 2010


spicynuts: "Facebook: An uneducated consumer is our best customer!"

The member of facebook is not a customer, they are the product. The advertisers are the customers.
posted by idiopath at 11:02 AM on May 17, 2010 [31 favorites]


I'm not facebook's target market (in fact they're probably happy to get rid of nonconsumers like me), but my kids are, and the kids coming up behind them are fresh meat. By the time those kids are grown, we'll be much further along this slippery slope.

The more I read stuff like this, the more I start to view Facebook and its ilk as the moral equivalent of the cigarette companies, except it's not the long term health of our kids' hearts and lungs they don't give a shit about, it's their public selves in perpetuity.

Fuck these guys.
posted by philip-random at 11:05 AM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I hope this is true. I hope that, like LiveJournal, enough people will rise up and say "hey, this is bullshit!" and have something happen. But I doubt it.

It does already, but only ever on a "micro" level. Each time FB has rolled out yet another TOS change which makes their users' information less private, there's been a dramatic uproar and incremental changes are made to mollify the masses. Honestly, I think that sort of ongoing "equilibrium" may be the best we can hope for.

Facebook doesn't need users concerned about their privacy because these users just take up space.

Oh, absolutely.
posted by zarq at 11:10 AM on May 17, 2010


Xoebe just found some Uncommon Brown Mystery Eggs and wants to say thank you!

Xoebe just harvested their chicken coop and found some Uncommon Brown Mystery Eggs, and wants to thank their friends for feeding the chickens!
posted by Xoebe at 11:11 AM on May 17, 2010


I'm pretty frigging sick of social media by now, not to mention Facebook drama. I'd love to drop the hell out of it (I NEVER update anything, ever, once in a great while I log in when forced to), but godforfuckingbid if you are not on Facebook. Yes, I'm "out of the loop" becaues I don't read Facebook fifty times a day and it's annoying, but at this point I enjoy not knowing every tiny tedious thing people are up to, and "reconnecting" with people I knew a decade ago has not been all that and a bag of chips either.

Feh. Next fad, please?
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:12 AM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Xoebe just found some Uncommon Brown Mystery Eggs and wants to say thank you!

Xoebe just harvested their chicken coop and found some Uncommon Brown Mystery Eggs, and wants to thank their friends for feeding the chickens!


"HIDE APPLICATION UPDATES FROM THIS USER?"

Where's my "HELL YES" button?
posted by zarq at 11:13 AM on May 17, 2010


...but at this point I enjoy not knowing every tiny tedious thing people are up to, and "reconnecting" with people I knew a decade ago has not been all that and a bag of chips either.

Feh. Next fad, please?


You're going to love Twitter. It's the next big thing! :)
posted by zarq at 11:15 AM on May 17, 2010


Next fad, please?

Sorry, but deeply integrated social networking is about as much of a "fad" as the World Wide Web. It may not be Facebook in ten years, but whatever takes its place will encompass all that it is and just add more.
posted by griphus at 11:16 AM on May 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Facebook Pages (the thing that your interests got absorbed into) harvests keyword-matched private status updates as well.

?????

Could you please elaborate, or provide links? Because this is genuinely disturbing.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:20 AM on May 17, 2010


Feh. Next fad, please?

SocialNapping. An app on your computer detects when your face is resting on the keyboard and updates your status to indicate such. When you wake up you're prompted to rate your nap on a 1-10 scale. With 10 being the best. nap. ever! You can check to see if your friends are napping, so you don't interrupt them while they sleep, or leave messages for them to get when they wake up.

The iphone/android version still needs testing. I don't think there will be an ipad version.
posted by hellojed at 11:21 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


What the fuck is this?

http://willmoffat.github.com/FacebookSearch/?q=%22i'm%20not%20racist%20but%22

Facebook worm? Astroturfing? A poorly worded viral message?
posted by codacorolla at 11:22 AM on May 17, 2010


Also? Totally don't get the people in these threads who stick up for Facebook. Usually they give some sort of sophistic "don't like it, don't use it" or "you shared it, it's your dumb fault" argument. I mean really, do they even know who they're sticking up for? I mean, yes, I know we're all supposed to be cool contrarian hipsters here, and we're all supposed to be stereotypical IT guys here ("stupid lusers!") but really? You're sticking up for Facebook's privacy practices? I mean, they've already shown themselves to have the same regard for our privacy that a drunk drivers have for those dotted white lines on the road. Every day, they're trying to find new ways to sell us out without asking our permission. I mean, yes, we're all aware that they CAN do this shit, does that mean they SHOULD?
posted by Afroblanco at 11:26 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Because this is genuinely disturbing.

You know what? I did and I am wrong. It only does so for people with public status updates. It still happens, though. Like Twitter's Trending Topics, it will take keywords from status and stick them into the group for that keyword. Like if I mention Radiohead, my status update will appear on the Radiohead page.

...then again, with the constant updating, this might not be working this way right now at all.
posted by griphus at 11:28 AM on May 17, 2010


I'm one of those people who signed up for Facebook fairly early on (before almost any of my not-currently-in-college peers were). If Facebook's privacy options were the options at the start, I would not have signed up.

Someone upthread makes the point that it's never wise to trust companies with private data. Yet, there are degrees of trust that all but the most hardcore of us extend. Most of us use unencrypted email and chat, we use credit cards, we don't wear hats and sunglasses when out in under the watchful eye of surveillance cameras, and so on.

So, we pick and choose. When Facebook started, they had excellent privacy options, and the settings made it an encouraging environment to share information.

Now, they don't. They've fulfilled the warning that a company can and will do anything; they've canned and willed about as far as any company has gone, further than AOL and its search logs, certainly further than Google or Microsoft or Apple.

Just because they can, however, doesn't mean we have to like it, and it does mean that I, personally, no longer trust this company with my data.

I'm the early adopter in my family. If something better comes along, they're going to hear about it. Duplicate this case millions of times, and it seems like Facebook is taking their profits now, while paving a road for a competitor to step in.

Facebook's value is the people in its network. But people can walk out overnight (see also, Orkut, Friendster). And I don't think most Facebook users have a great loyalty to Facebook. Their loyalty is instead to their friends. Get a few to switch to the new frontier, whatever it is, and the rest will follow, slowly at first, and then in a great wave.

If that happens, I think we'll look back on Facebook's actions as obviously harmful to itself, and their attitudes towards privacy as foolish.
posted by zippy at 11:30 AM on May 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


headnsouth, I would like to thank you. I've seen so many instances of helicoptering and snooping go terribly awry. Yours is perhaps the best counter-example I have seen. The whole Strangeland "chat room child molester" thing is so overblown (if your kid is at risk, you already know whoever it is), but damn if dumb things kids do can't follow them for decades on the Web.

Well there was an awkward exchange when I had to tell my teenage son that redtube is off-limits ... jeez louise ... but for the most part I just want them to treat being online like being at McDonalds or at school or at an intersection with traffic cameras all over the place, rather than like a journal. It's not private, nothing online is private. The moment you believe that sitting in your own living room with the lights out and your macbook on your lap means you're alone is the moment Zuckerberg and google and yahoo and every other data aggregator/buyer/seller has you by the short hairs.

So if my kids grow up knowing that mom could be reading anything they write, then with any luck they'll be a bit more circumspect than facebook would like them to be. They do tend to roll their eyes at how much personal information and photos their friends put online, but on the other hand they "like" everything from skittles to pearl jam to not getting eaten by a t-rex so they're not exactly opting out either.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but whatever the right answer is today is going to be insufficient tomorrow. It seems an inexorable slide.
posted by headnsouth at 11:32 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


To second availablelight, as odious as using Facebook can be sometimes, it can sometimes be very useful or even necessary as a means of getting or remaining in touch with people, particularly non-tech-savvy people.

Facebook is also fantastic if you're organizing something on campus. Back in 2007, I ran this campuswide game called Humans vs. Zombies, which is like a massive, campuswide game of tag with nerf guns and stuff. It's great fun, but it requires a massive amount of work to coordinate. I wasn't sure I could trust anyone else to share my particular ideas about safety and sanity when running it, so I decided to do all the work myself, and ended up hallucinating my cellphone ringtone at one point until I switched to a new one.

Point is, for all that the organizational work was stressful and rough (though eventually worth it), it would have been ten times as difficult without Facebook, which a) every college student has and b) every college student checks at least once a day. Having Facebook provided me with a platform that gave me access to all of my players easily and gave us all the ability to organize ourselves and each other for success.

So yeah, it's got some great uses. Zuck just needs to remember what size his britches are.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:33 AM on May 17, 2010


Sorry, but deeply integrated social networking is about as much of a "fad" as the World Wide Web. It may not be Facebook in ten years, but whatever takes its place will encompass all that it is and just add more.

Well put.

When WinXP came out the big marketing hype was about internet connectivity -- even more so than WinMe, Win95 or Win98. Now, everyone could search the internet from their desktops. Instant access to email, etc. I remember having to reassure my AOL-using mother that her new operating system would not only run just fine without being connected to the internet, but also that it wouldn't make her personal files and emails publicly available to hackers.

Sometimes, fads can be transformative.
posted by zarq at 11:33 AM on May 17, 2010


Openbook (Facebook Search) is written by a friend of mine. Here's the about page explanation:

Openbook draws attention to the information Facebook makes public about its users via its search API. Facebook exposed this service on April 21st, 2010.

Our goal is to get Facebook to restore the privacy of this information, so that this website and others like it no longer work.

posted by zippy at 11:35 AM on May 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think there's a definite generational thing at play here. Many of these kids who refuse to stay off my lawn were born into an online world without an expectation of privacy. So public wall posts or GPS enabled check ins are normal and liked. Those of us in my cohort are a little more guarded and have this hesitation as to letting it all hang out online. And the olds? They like to see their kids updates about wild parties and whatnot.

Most people use facebook to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances. That only works if everyone you know is on it. You friend new people when you meet them elsewhere.

Facebook also tries to hook people up with similar interests...oh, you like blow jobs, and money? we should totally hang out. For that part to work, all the shit you like, and things like where you work and went to school are needed to be public.

Then there's facebook the business that is trying to take all the data they know about people and make money. Now, they could hide you're a fan of blow jobs from other users and only use that nugget of data for selling ads. But then you might not connect with other blow job lovers. They can mine the connections and do predictive modeling to predict things and serve ads to you for things you "like" but didn't click the button. Do see the high r^2 of corellation between people who like blow jobs, money, went to PBHS 15-20 years ago and drive a Camry is what is worth big bucks.

I reluctantly joined facebook and use it mostly for the first usage model I listed above. I'm not looking for other people in my city of 3 million or college of 50,000 to connect with. I rarely only add friends of friends when I know the person. I have my privacy settings so that no one can see shit. People can still search FB for my name but it isn't much to look at. My real meatspace friends know all my likes and dislikes and don't need a website to find that info out.



(I'm using blow jobs and money as interests as a nod to Idiocracy, which I see a lot of in people's random status updates)
posted by birdherder at 11:40 AM on May 17, 2010


For the other issue you have with Facebook, there's now Farmvillain novelty wall updates.

Hooker jokes and racism. Toxic bullshit. If the aim is to drive me even further from FB even faster, well, well done, lads.
posted by Shepherd at 11:40 AM on May 17, 2010


The Facebook Privacy Scanner from ReclaimPrivacy.org
posted by zarq at 11:41 AM on May 17, 2010 [11 favorites]


My results:

* good: you are opted-out of the Instant Personalization feature
* good: all of your personal information is at restricted to your friends or closer
* good: all of your contact information is at restricted to your friends or closer
caution: some of your friends, tags, and connections information is exposed to the entire Internet, you should tweak friends, tags, and connections settings and then {Click here to} Re-scan
* insecure: your friends can accidentally share your personal information. {Click here to} Prevent friends from sharing your data
* good: you have blocked all known applications that could leak your personal information
posted by zarq at 11:43 AM on May 17, 2010


> Aside from a consistent privacy system, Facebook also needs to add a "WOAH, COWBOY! EVERYONE CAN SEE YOUR WALL! ARE YOU SURE YOU WANNA SHARE THAT?!" disclaimer popup.

I hear Clippy's looking for a job these days.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:46 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


spicynuts: "Facebook: An uneducated consumer is our best customer!"

The member of facebook is not a customer, they are the product. The advertisers are the customers.


It was a play on a famous advertising slogan for Syms department store: An educated consumer is our best customer. Totally not a serious comment.
posted by spicynuts at 11:54 AM on May 17, 2010


I like that privacy scanner, zarq. Somebody posted a similar thing the other day, that would show you what information from Facebook was searchable outside Facebook. Mine only showed my name, my profile picture, and something else I felt was innocuous. It tamed my concerns somewhat.
posted by not that girl at 11:55 AM on May 17, 2010


I'm Peter, one of the three guys who built this tool. If anyone has any questions, shoot.

If anyone's curious about what the site does behind the scenes, you can browse the source code here.
posted by Rictic at 12:02 PM on May 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


Facebook doesn't need users concerned about their privacy because these users just take up space.

While I agree that the number of users concerned about privacy on FB right now is very small compared to the total number of site users, Facebook is a multi-billion dollar business whose very existence rests on people's perceptions of it, and their willingness to go to that website every day instead of millions (billions) of others.

The users who are concerned about privacy right now are the most savvy and aware ones, who most likely behave as mavens, meaning "those who are intense gatherers of information and impressions, and so are often the first to pick up on new or nascent trends." (That Wikipedia entry is crap, and Malcolm Gladwell certainly is not the originator of this usage--researcher Steven Tepper (et al, I HIGHLY recommend this book for recent research on these sorts of ideas) has written quite a bit about this phenomenon, especially in the paper "Music, Mavens, and Technology.")

If the mavens are starting to bolt on Facebook, it could be the first few pebbles signaling an avalanche--we've seen this happen to multi-billion dollar web "properties" before (AOL and MySpace come to mind), and it could easily happen to Facebook, and the people running that company know it. The thing about websites as a business is that they are ephemeral, and no amount of success establishes a "thing" that can endure big drops in business, too, like physical distribution networks, or extra inventory, or whatever. There is no there there, it would drive me insane if I ran an entity like that. (I think this is why Google has worked so diligently to embed itself in the people's web usage as a service provider rather than just a search engine or web portal.)
posted by LooseFilter at 12:05 PM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


If anyone's curious about what the site does behind the scenes, you can browse the source code here.

...and here is primary evidence why traditional business models and even traditional conceptions of what a business is are failing.

(and Peter, thanks for making that cool site, and even more thanks for your transparency in doing so!)
posted by LooseFilter at 12:07 PM on May 17, 2010


Facebook costs me nothing, gives me tons and does not owe me a fucking thing.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 12:08 PM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I deactivated my Facebook profile about a month ago. Then my husband and I made the decision to adopt a child, and I realized I had NO WAY of efficiently telling the 90+ friends and family members I had on Facebook. Of course I called my closest family and friends (or spoke to them in person), but I would have had to make countless other phone calls to get people's numbers. Lots of these people don't have email addresses, and I don't have addresses for most of the people who do.

So it was MUCH easier to just sign in again and post a status update. 5 minutes and done, versus days and weeks of trying to get in touch with people.

I have almost nothing on my profile, though. I don't need to broadcast that I like Italian food or that I'm a Buddhist; if you're my friend, you already know that. If you don't already know that, then it's not something I thought you needed to know.
posted by desjardins at 12:08 PM on May 17, 2010


Facebook costs me nothing, gives me tons and does not owe me a fucking thing.

I'll give you a free bike with my advertisement on it if you ride around town. The brakes work fine now. What I'm not going to tell you is that at some unspecified time in the future, I'm going to sneak into your garage and clip the brake lines.

But hey, you got a free bike. I don't owe you anything.
posted by desjardins at 12:15 PM on May 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm Peter, one of the three guys who built this tool. If anyone has any questions, shoot.

Peter, thank you. Fantastic work! Also, thank you for making the source code publicly available. Nicely done.

By the way, I learned about your tool through Diaspora's tweet. :)
posted by zarq at 12:24 PM on May 17, 2010


Pop quiz: Which is longer, the United States Constitution or Facebook’s Privacy Policy?

Facebook Privacy: A Bewildering Tangle of Options.
posted by ericb at 12:24 PM on May 17, 2010


really? You're sticking up for Facebook's privacy practices?
Their practices are abhorrent. So don't use them. And if you do use them, make sure that you're using them in such a way that their practices will not adversely affect you.

they've already shown themselves to have the same regard for our privacy that a drunk drivers have for those dotted white lines on the road.
The difference is that the drunk driver affects me through no fault of my own. Facebook can only affect me negatively to the extent that I allow it, via immature status updates or whatever.

I know we're all supposed to be cool contrarian hipsters here...
I'm not sure how being a responsible person (and disregarding the irresponsibility of others) makes me a "hipster."
posted by coolguymichael at 12:27 PM on May 17, 2010


Movie depicts seamy life of Facebook boss -- "The 26-year-old billionaire, who is already under fire for his website’s abuse of privacy, now faces ridicule."
posted by ericb at 12:27 PM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Totally don't get the people in these threads who stick up for Facebook. Usually they give some sort of sophistic "don't like it, don't use it" or "you shared it, it's your dumb fault" argument.

Even keeping in mind what Facebook is doing these days, I think their Beacon feature was probably the most blatantly horrifying thing they've ever done (on purpose, anyway). I had no idea this thing even existed until, one day, I bought tickets to The Dark Knight on Fandango. I found out a while later that Facebook actually posted, on my news feed, that I had purchased tickets to The Dark Knight on Fandango. I had not been asked for permission for it publish this non-Facebook activity of mine, and I was not told it was going to happen.

Although I didn't so much care that all my Facebook connections knew I'd just bought those tickets, it scared the crap out of me that it was suddenly automatically set to publish things that I was doing on other websites on my Facebook page, just because I was using the same email address to do both things. To anyone who maybe doesn't use Facebook and doesn't get the big deal about what it's doing, thinking all its users should know better, imagine if any web service you used, free or not, suddenly started publicizing things you were doing elsewhere on the internet without even asking you if you wanted those things brought to anyone's attention: purchases made on Amazon, posts made on MetaFilter, reviews posted on epinions, etc.

While I'm all about being careful and being smart, I personally do not think that simply utilizing well-known internet sites means the users should be blamed if any one of those sites decides to F them over at any given time. Facebook wasn't like this when a lot of people signed up for it.
posted by wondermouse at 12:29 PM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I joined facebook way back when. Actually when I was a grad student and someone invited me, I think late 2004 or early 2005. I had a handfull of friends for a long time and gradually added people as they found out about it. At the time it felt like a thing for undergrads, so it seemed a little silly. As a result, there weren't so many people that I knew on it. Then it opened up for non-students and friends seemed to roll in. Sometime after that, the UK got it and it sort of exploded. Within six months it seemed to go from something that the kids were on to something that everyone was on. And, as we now know, over that time the privacy settings and what the site was about started to change. So, excuse me for feeling a bit pissed off when the thing I signed up to became something else. Inevitable, I know, but but a lot of this has been done by stealth and that's what annoys me.
posted by ob at 12:36 PM on May 17, 2010


The difference is that the drunk driver affects me through no fault of my own. Facebook can only affect me negatively to the extent that I allow it, via immature status updates or whatever.

This is assuming that Facebook made even a slight effort to educate its users as to recent changes. You have to stay on top of them (I thought I had, until I used that privacy checker), and for people who aren't good with computers it's very, very difficult. This is technically legal, and maybe you should 'vote with your wallet' (a weird phrase, considering you're facebook's product), but is very exploitive. Facebook is relying on a lack of knowledge in its user base to generate income.
posted by codacorolla at 12:38 PM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


The difference is that the drunk driver affects me through no fault of my own. Facebook can only affect me negatively to the extent that I allow it, via immature status updates or whatever.

Not exactly.

I missed a dinner with friends the other night because of an illness in the family. We're all on Facebook together.

Even though my profile isn't search-engine searchable, my friends can (and did) put a status message up that said (paraphrased) "Dinner was delicious! Too bad @zarq and @Mrs. zarq couldn't make it, because of an illness in the family." Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal to me. But FB has now set up a new feature whereby if you add "@" before a person's name, a link to their profile will be placed in your status update. Half an hour after the post went up, my wife got a message on her FB wall from a total stranger. "Hope your family is okay." Neither of us had posted anything about the that our status messages

It took me a little while to figure out what had happened.

Obviously, this wasn't done maliciously and there was no harm done. But it was an odd little reminder to us that on some level our lives are now being lived a little more publicly than we had originally intended.
posted by zarq at 12:41 PM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: Connect with other blow job lovers!
posted by Skot at 12:42 PM on May 17, 2010


Facebook can only affect me negatively to the extent that I allow it, via immature status updates or whatever.

My point is this -- in any given situation, wouldn't you rather have more consumer protections than fewer? Facebook has lots of valuable data, and they're completely irresponsible with it. People who trust Facebook as much as Facebook wants to be trusted do so only out of ignorance.

You know what? Fuck this. If you're someone who thinks that Facebook's behavior is acceptable, then you should be obligated to dial all of your privacy settings down to the default level, since you think this it's perfectly okay for Facebook to inflict this upon the poor fuckers who don't know any better.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:44 PM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Movie depicts seamy life of Facebook boss --

This is good.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:46 PM on May 17, 2010


I had not been asked for permission for it publish this non-Facebook activity of mine, and I was not told it was going to happen.

It gets weirder than that.

I do not have a Facebook account. I have never had one, and honestly, every time I hear about their privacy practices, it re-solidifies my desire to stay that way, despite many people wishing me to have one. My wife does have a Facebook account. She understands, generally, why I don't use it, but would nevertheless like me to have one, so that I can more easily keep up with certain friends of ours.

Anyways, one day, we had a really bad experience at a restaurant, and I decided to post about it on Urban Spoon, where I have a login that is not explicitly tied to me (it's essentially FirstName LastInitial -- e.g. John A.). I was logged in as myself. Urban Spoon clearly knew this -- it even had "Logged in as [Me]" or similar on the page.

So I write up a review -- a fairly scathing one, honestly, which is out of character for me, but it really was a horrible experience -- and click "post". A moment later, the review appears.

Posted under my wife's name.

Cross-posted to Facebook, automatically.

I freak the hell out. I delete the post (which it has somehow "helpfully" associated with my Wife's Urban Spoon account, presumably because she was logged into FB on the laptop, and it picked up her FB login and figured out she also had an Urban Spoon login). I then renew my vow to never have a Facebook account.

Seriously, fuck Facebook. I don't even use it and it's trying to weasel itself into my life.
posted by tocts at 12:47 PM on May 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


Also? Another argument I'm fucking sick of? "Facebook is free, so you have no right to complain."

Fuck. This. Noise.

Facebook isn't free, it's "free."

Don't act like they're somebody's sweet old grandmother giving out free chocolate chip cookies to her neighbors. You're acting like the last 15 years of commerce never happened, and you're making yourself look willfully ignorant.

BILLIONS are at stake. Enormous swathes of our economy are based on services that are "free." They're not doing this because they're nice. They're doing it because they've found a way to turn you into money.

They're not doing you any favors.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:51 PM on May 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


Welcome to the Internet! Please leave your expectation of privacy at the door!

(Security? Yes, please. I expect that shops won't share or lose my payment info. Do I have a problem with my Facebook profile becoming more public? Nope. I block ads and don't put anything online that I wouldn't want my boss or God to see.)
posted by Never teh Bride at 1:45 PM on May 17, 2010


Facebook could be carefully mining all my relationships, and selling someone the idea that they are going to deliver perfectly targeted advertising to me that, on the basis of that oh-so-perfect match between my interests and their product, I'll have to buy 10. Thing is, I'll never know, because when I'm on facebook, I'm using adblock. Maybe they will start selling my email address to spammers, thanks to gmail's filtering tech, again I'll be none the wiser.

I wander down to the office of one of my co-workers, and he's still using the AOL homepage, under IE.

Sometimes I wonder if I should feel bad for free-loading off the ad-views of those ignorant/unwilling to block ads.

If you're someone who thinks that Facebook's behavior is acceptable

I don't see at as acceptable, so much as inevitable. I wonder at anyone who thinks any site's privacy policy won't someday take a turn for the worse. Maybe it's because I remember a court case years ago, where company A had privacy policy A, but then went bankrupt, and company B bought up the information assets of company A, without any contractual obligation to uphold the original privacy policy. It took a while, but IIRC, in the end the FCC made company B stop using some level of the data it had gotten from company A, but the horse was already out of the barn.

I think the only solution is forced borgification. If we are all part of the collective, there can be no need for privacy. The money saved on lawyers on both sides of the privacy issue should cover the necessary nanobot research.
posted by nomisxid at 2:28 PM on May 17, 2010


Sometimes I wonder if I should feel bad for free-loading off the ad-views of those ignorant/unwilling to block ads.

Feel what you like.

Some of us can't use adblock at work. That doesn't make us unwilling to block, nor ignorant.
posted by zarq at 2:33 PM on May 17, 2010


I realized I had NO WAY of efficiently telling the 90+ friends and family members I had on Facebook. Of course I called my closest family and friends (or spoke to them in person), but I would have had to make countless other phone calls to get people's numbers. Lots of these people don't have email addresses, and I don't have addresses for most of the people who do.

You would have had to do no such thing. It's only because of Facebook that you think these people need to know about your new child immediately. Five years ago, you had a kid, and you sent an e-mail to the people whose e-mail addresses you had handy, and beyond that, you told people one at a time, when and if you got around to it. And you can still do that today. And no one will be worse off for it.
posted by escabeche at 3:04 PM on May 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


Some of us can't use adblock at work.

Boss: Zarq, I see you only viewed 200 ads in your browser this week, if this keeps up, it'll go on your TPS report. We have a 2,000 ad quota here, I expect you to pull your own weight.
posted by nomisxid at 3:18 PM on May 17, 2010


Totally don't get the people in these threads who stick up for Facebook. Usually they give some sort of sophistic "don't like it, don't use it" or "you shared it, it's your dumb fault" argument. I mean really, do they even know who they're sticking up for? I mean, yes, I know we're all supposed to be cool contrarian hipsters here, and we're all supposed to be stereotypical IT guys here ("stupid lusers!") but really? You're sticking up for Facebook's privacy practices?

I'm an enormous Facebook fan, use it more than I use any other site. Mark Zuckerberg's been a source of inspiration to me for a few years now; I'm fascinated with the world of tech start-ups and he's one of my favorite-ever founders. And usually I defend Facebook — I don't sneer at the people who're mad at Facebook, because they have every right to be mad, but I defend myself and my friends who use it from the people who sneer at people who use Facebook and seem to genuinely enjoy it. There're a few of those here on MetaFilter.

There are two important factors that affect how I look at Facebook.

First off, I don't view it as some monolithic product of a megalomaniac genius. I know too many tech entrepreneurs to think of any of them like that. Mark Zuckerberg has shown a remarkable focus and a refusal to compromise his ideas, and I admire the fuck out of him for that. But the idea behind Facebook isn't brilliant so much as it is brilliantly executed.

I think it's been obvious since when I joined Facebook in 2005 what it was after. It's been relentlessly obsessed with collecting, categorizing, and sorting information from the beginning. It sells the information to advertisers like nobody's business, but there's a genuine fascination from the core Facebook team with information and how it portrays people.

Every weird decision they make is perfectly sensible as long as you start from the assumption that Facebook cares less about users/advertisers than they do about raw collecting of information. For a long time they really sucked at making that information profitable. Now they're better at it, but there's still a lag between their information storage and their advertising. This isn't a site run by ad people. Have you seen how the Facebook team blogs? They're not like the Google team, which churns out glossy polished blog reports. Facebook's team is geeky and awkward whenever they write. Their PR team kind of sucks. Otherwise we wouldn't even be talking about this.

Which makes me like Facebook. It humanizes the company for me. This isn't a faceless void of Modern Capitalism. This is essentially still a bunch of geeky college kids who're ambitious as all-get-out. They make stupid geek mistakes relentlessly, but I don't think it's malevolence. I just think that they're stupid. Odd how we assume billionaires are instantly pervasively brilliant. I haven't met any billionaires, but the millionaires I've met seem pretty human to me.

And so I still like Zuckerberg, because for all that he's flawed, I still can't help but be a little in awe of how willing his team is to sacrifice user happiness to pursue his various weird social networking explorations. Every time information about his past leaks I like him even more. He's not bending over backwards prostituting his company for users. He's kind of doing his own thing, which isn't necessarily what's best for Facebook. Sometimes people get really mad at him and then he beats out a half-hearted apology. Happens once a year like clockwork. It's kind of adorable.

The other factor in my love of Facebook is this: I don't give a shit about keeping my information private.

I've faced all sorts of horrible privacy leaks. Once a comment I wrote on Facebook led to threats of expulsion from a particularly irate teacher. There was a blogging civil war between me and a girl I broke up with that led to a lot of unpleasant things being put online. Some guy in one of my classes downloaded my profile pictures and posted them online without permission. Once I got into a flamewar with a high-profile programmer who saw fit to spend a few hours insulting everything about me from my family to my choice of musical instrument. But in the end, none of this has particularly affected my life beyond occasionally eradicating a bit of my self-esteem.

The fix for bad information being leaked out is not trying to fight against that information release. It's releasing so much information that said bad information is infinitesimal against the backdrop of everything else.

The other fix is to try hard not to be stupid in what you say. About the worst I ever get in Facebook status updates is berating my former roommate, who bothered me. Maybe a post or two about weed or beer. But my younger brother is friends with me on Facebook, so I use him as a metric. If it's not safe for his eyes, then I don't post it.

Between the two fixes — be a little self-conscious and accept that nobody's really going to see anything anyway — the big Facebook problems go away. Sure they sell my taste in music to advertisers. I don't care. I'm getting advertisements for a Meredith Monk documentary I never knew existed before, because nobody cares about Meredith Monk. If the poor sap who made that obscure documentary wants my information so he can try and convince me to buy it, I welcome his effort.

I like that advertising knows more about who I am. It's getting less stupid. This is good. I hate stupid things.

By the way, this isn't meant to be some "down with privacy!" mandate. It's simply my personal opinion. I get why people don't like privacy intrusions. I simply don't mind. It's a little irritating to be told I don't understand how big and bad Facebook is. It's just that I honestly don't think Facebook's being too evil.

Stupid, yes. Geeky, yes. But not evil.

So my group of friends and I use Facebook happily. It's the simplest way to connect with somebody there is right now. We've tried email, Backpack, Google Wave, Skype, and Facebook keeps coming out tops.

But seriously, man, if you don't like it, you don't have to use it. I get why you wouldn't. I like it, I use it, I still look up to Mark Zuckerberg as a role model for young, ambitious people who're told by literally everybody that they shouldn't do something and then go do that thing anyway. I hope my mistakes aren't as stupid as his; I suspect they won't be. But partly that's because I got to learn from his fuck-ups.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:34 PM on May 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


I still look up to Mark Zuckerberg as a role model for young, ambitious people who're told by literally everybody that they shouldn't do something and then go do that thing anyway.

Okay, you like him. But isn't his poster on your wall a little much?
posted by gtr at 4:20 PM on May 17, 2010


The fix for bad information being leaked out is not trying to fight against that information release. It's releasing so much information that said bad information is infinitesimal against the backdrop of everything else.

Really?
"A man can spend his life building bridges. Do they call him John the Bridge Builder? No. A man can spend his life raising crops. Do they call him John the Farmer? No. But you fuck one goat . . ."
It's pretty easy using today's search tools to find the items that stand out; imagine what the data management tools of the future might be like!

By the way, this isn't meant to be some "down with privacy!" mandate. It's simply my personal opinion.

Your opinion about what? It's one thing to say that you don't care about whether you have any privacy. That's all well and good ... for you. But as advice goes, it's not especially helpful to those who place greater value on their own privacy.
posted by me & my monkey at 4:25 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The other factor in my love of Facebook is this: I don't give a shit about keeping my information private.

Well, and there you go. Some of us don't want to spend our lives putting out little fires like what you described.

Although, to be fair, if Facebook openly advertised themselves as "The Social Network For People Who Don't Give A Shit About Keeping Their Information Private," I'd have slightly less of a problem with them.

Slightly.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:27 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your opinion about what?

What a silly question. My opinion about Facebook. It was asked why people defended Facebook, and I gave my answer, and I said right up front that privacy was an understandable place to draw lines, even if that's not where my particular line is drawn.

"A man can spend his life building bridges. Do they call him John the Bridge Builder? No. A man can spend his life raising crops. Do they call him John the Farmer? No. But you fuck one goat . . ."

See, that's a funny joke, but life doesn't work like that. As a young kid I threw enormous destructive temper tantrums. And by "young" I meant "13". But by the time I was 14 nobody thought of me as "the guy subject to fits of rage". None of the various humiliating stories I tell have had much of an effect on me. I'm not Rory Throws-Up-When-You-Mix-Butter-With-Cream-Cheese or Rory Crapped-His-Pants-As-A-Kid. I get why people have their own personal secrets which they imagine other people would give a shit about but honestly, by-and-large people can't be bothered to gossip that much. We don't even talk about Michael Phelps and his bong anymore.

Some of us don't want to spend our lives putting out little fires like what you described.

What fires did I put out? Shit happened, life went on. I didn't have to do anything to stop them from sticking.

Although, to be fair, if Facebook openly advertised themselves as "The Social Network For People Who Don't Give A Shit About Keeping Their Information Private," I'd have slightly less of a problem with them.

Can I steal that tagline? I want to use it.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:34 PM on May 17, 2010


1. You (as in YOU) are not the nugget companies are after. Companies do not care (right now) whether you are at the store (we will in the future). We don't care that you have a kid, have left leaning politics, and visited your grandmother last weekend.

2. We want to know that your target demographic: parent, left leaning, family oriented, with $10K annual disposable income will occasionally click on our advertisement we served you. More importantly, an even smaller percentage of the time, you'll buy the product...

3. We also want to know that your target demographic likes certain types of stores, probably has a smart phone, uses a facebook ap while out shopping, and researches online 3 different sites before purchasing a product online or visiting a store.

4. We want to test your pliability to marketing, so we'll ramp up and ramp down the blitz you might see for products, or try to create a buzz.

5. We want to quantify our customer base under similar lines, we want to build a profile of our target base, and then we want to provide to you a shopping experience tailored to someone just like you.

Facebook provides lots a lot of that data. And, from a presentation I saw a month or two ago, social media (specifically facebook) is the #2 site visited in the world - behind google (hit count, not unique hit). Now, what that means is that if you as a customer Tivo Lost and 24, marketers have to work harder to ensure that we reach you - and we'll turn to the time sink that provides a cornucopia of demographic information.

And as I said - it isn't about you. We don't care that you as a user like Justin Bieber. We care that as an aggregate, men in their mid 40s who has a penchant for Sunday softball, the White Soxs and Fox News, will respond to a 3% increase in advertising spend by purchasing 30% more product, and that by targeting the advertisement to you, that we can further improve efficiency by another 5%.

Note: nothing I said is an actual aggregated stat - other than Facebook being #2 and Google is clinging for now to the #1 spot. You are part of a model and we're just trying to make a buck.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:40 PM on May 17, 2010


The advertising and the forced-public nature of Facebook aren't really linked. GMail manages to finely hone its advertising to the contents of my emails without also sharing them with the world, for instance.

The forced-public stuff? That's because the company is chasing butterflies like Twitter instead of building on what people actually liked about it.

It's releasing so much information that said bad information is infinitesimal against the backdrop of everything else.
That explains the prolix paen, then.
posted by bonaldi at 4:41 PM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


What fires did I put out? Shit happened, life went on. I didn't have to do anything to stop them from sticking.

Huh? What was that? Sorry, I missed what you said. I got lost somewhere between "dealing with expulsion threats," "blogging civil war," and "flamewar with a high-profile programmer."

Although, to be fair, a couple of those sound like a lot more than just "little" fires.

Pardon.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:44 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Huh? What was that? Sorry, I missed what you said. I got lost somewhere between "dealing with expulsion threats," "blogging civil war," and "flamewar with a high-profile programmer."

Drama happens. Drama disappears. For all that drama happened, it stopped being of interest to anybody within hours of its happening.

The one of those three that's an exclusive Internet Privacy Thing — exgirlfriends and assholes are online too — was the expulsion threat, and it wasn't a threat in anything but bluster. Somebody thought that being abrasive online was against school policy. It wasn't. A week later nobody cared.

That explains the prolix paen, then.

Nah. That's just me. I like writing.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:47 PM on May 17, 2010


it stopped being of interest to anybody within hours of its happening.
These things have a habit of suddenly becoming hugely interesting again years later when journalists decide it's of interest to them. Social media over-sharing has already brought down more than one prospective politician, for instance.

I like writing.
If you "like writing" all over FB too you're probably safe there because everyone is hiding you, then, and not for the reasons you think you are.
posted by bonaldi at 4:54 PM on May 17, 2010


The fix for bad information being leaked out is not trying to fight against that information release. It's releasing so much information that said bad information is infinitesimal against the backdrop of everything else.

The other fix is to try hard not to be stupid in what you say.


This seems to go along with the assumption that anything that can come out about you on Facebook is something you posted on Facebook. People are all, "Well, don't post stupid stuff you don't want your boss to see. ta-da!" That's all well and good, but when Facebook ends up linking itself to a bunch of other sites all over the internet, with the user never really knowing what sites Facebook is linked to or when their activities might end up posted somewhere along with all his other information, that's when it gets creepy. It also gets creepy when things that used to be private, or visible to friends only, is suddenly visible to everyone by default.

You may have seen the post I made earlier in this thread, where Facebook automatically broadcast the movie tickets I'd just bought on Fandango (and I blame Fandango as well for not letting me know news of my purchase would be used like this), or the post tocts made about his bad review of a restaurant at Urban Spoon's website ending up posted to his wife's Facebook news feed.

I'm sorry, but for all of Zuckerberg's crazy ambition, I can't admire someone who has so little disregard for other people's privacy, making them think they're getting one thing and then switching it out from under them with no attempt to let them know or giving them a chance to opt out. While I'm certainly glad they eventually did away with Beacon after becoming the target of a class action lawsuit, the fact that the folks at Facebook even thought that was a good idea makes me not have any admiration for them whatsoever.

How would you feel if your credit card company suddenly sent out a mailer to all your friends and acquaintances letting them know everything you've bought in the last year, without even asking you if that's okay? Would you think that's a brilliant assemblage of data, or would you think they are assholes? If you're even still okay with that, because hey, maybe you haven't bought anything embarrassing with your credit card, what if that list of things contained a surprise gift you didn't want one of those people to know about? It really takes a lot of ignorance for people at a company to not think of things like that before putting their next great marketing scheme into action.

And you know, I don't even care if advertisers are keeping huge databases of what everyone buys and coming up with smarter ways to market because of that. That's fine with me because it strikes me as a largely anonymous process. None of those people have any idea who I am, so I don't give a crap that they know I bought tickets to The Dark Knight on Fandango. But when they start involving my friends, using my face, my name, and my information to market their product to my friends without even asking my permission, I am going to get pissed off.
posted by wondermouse at 4:55 PM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Christ, Bonaldi's an asshole when he's drunk.

I'm sorry, but for all of Zuckerberg's crazy ambition, I can't admire someone who has so little disregard for other people's privacy, making them think they're getting one thing and then switching it out from under them with no attempt to let them know or giving them a chance to opt out. While I'm certainly glad they eventually did away with Beacon after becoming the target of a class action lawsuit, the fact that the folks at Facebook even thought that was a good idea makes me not have any admiration for them whatsoever.

The whole Beacon deal is why I'm kind of surprised they're pulling the shit they're pulling now. Like, they're doing the same thing that got them in huge trouble last time, pretty much. And for that reason I wouldn't be surprised if within a month we get another apology from Mark and Facebook and another long stretch of time where they try to stay squeaky clean and not do things that'll piss anybody off. I mean, this is the first time there's ever been press actively talking about Facebook's competitors where one of the perks is "it's not Facebook". That's a queue for a company to start doing things pretty damn differently. I wouldn't complain if it did.

But again, I don't feel a personal animosity towards Zuckerberg. I think he's being an idiot rather than being evil, and I can excuse idiocy. And I can still admire his good parts. Just like it's possible to admire Einstein-the-scientist and not Einstein-the-womanizer, or to admire X-who-did-X and not X-who-also-did-Y. Strive for the good and avoid the bad.

I use Facebook. I understand why people wouldn't use Facebook, and why they think Facebook's actively harmful. I won't try to argue with them because it's a differing of opinion. But somebody expressed surprise that anybody would ever defend Facebook, and I thought I'd jump in and go "Hey! Here's a reason why!"
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:04 PM on May 17, 2010


Nomixsid, The IT department at work won't let us install adblock software.

Even if they did, I probably wouldn't. Ads can be sometimes useful for highlighting related trends -- something that I could find helpful for work.
posted by zarq at 5:13 PM on May 17, 2010


"Hey! Here's a reason why!"
Afroblanco asked for a defence of Facebook's privacy practices, not a defence of Facebook per se. "I love Mark and totally heart Facebook and don't give a shit about my privacy" isn't that.
posted by bonaldi at 5:18 PM on May 17, 2010


What a silly question. My opinion about Facebook.

I wouldn't have thought that elaboration was necessary, but apparently I was wrong again.

Your opinion is that it's ok for you that Facebook doesn't give a shit about anyone's privacy, because you also don't give a shit about your own privacy. And that you think they're not evil, just overly ambitious. But that's not much of an opinion about whether Facebook's behavior is ok or not, is it? And what is evil anyway except unchecked ambition? If I choose to do whatever I like regardless of the consequences, guess what - that's evil! No twirly mustache fiddling required.

See, that's a funny joke, but life doesn't work like that. As a young kid I threw enormous destructive temper tantrums. And by "young" I meant "13". But by the time I was 14 nobody thought of me as "the guy subject to fits of rage". None of the various humiliating stories I tell have had much of an effect on me. I'm not Rory Throws-Up-When-You-Mix-Butter-With-Cream-Cheese or Rory Crapped-His-Pants-As-A-Kid.

That's because you were a kid. I suspect you still are a kid. But when you become an adult, I suspect you'll find that life does work like that. Lots of kids, for example, wet the bed when they're kids. And yet adult bedwetters are probably not reassured by that fact.

But somebody expressed surprise that anybody would ever defend Facebook, and I thought I'd jump in and go "Hey! Here's a reason why!"

That's not a defense. Stating that you don't care when someone pisses on your head is not a defense of pissing on peoples' heads.
posted by me & my monkey at 5:18 PM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Don't forget: May 31st is Quit Facebook Day! Bring a friend!
posted by tybeet at 5:26 PM on May 17, 2010


Your opinion is that it's ok for you that Facebook doesn't give a shit about anyone's privacy, because you also don't give a shit about your own privacy. And that you think they're not evil, just overly ambitious. But that's not much of an opinion about whether Facebook's behavior is ok or not, is it? And what is evil anyway except unchecked ambition? If I choose to do whatever I like regardless of the consequences, guess what - that's evil! No twirly mustache fiddling required.

My opinion wasn't just "I don't care about privacy". That was a part of it, but I think my first part was much more important to this general debate: When you view Facebook as a big college experiment and not as Serious Business, then when it has these fuck-ups it's less a drastic thing and more of an "Oh, Facebook."

Social networks are an optional thing. We can live without them. There are more open alteratives within the social Internet. Livejournal, for instance, or email, or any number of systems that function to connect people. And there's really no penalty for not using Facebook, except that you don't get to see how other people are using Facebook.

So given that, and given that it's free-as-in-I-don't-pay-money-for-it, I don't mind Facebook's being utterly stupid about privacy. If they get to a point where I don't like it, I'll delete my account. Not with any kind of emotional upheaval; it's a utility and if it's giving me less than I'm giving it then I'll find a new one. And, because Facebook is both free-as-in-I-don't-pay-money-for-it and because it's so relatively inessential to my daily living, I don't mind that I have no control on the site beyond what Facebook chooses to give me. If they take my control past a certain point, I'm gone; till then, I don't care. It's not a moral dilemma for me as much as it's a binary option.

I still think it's very silly not to pick what things you broadcast online. Facebook's not importing anything that people haven't actively put online; when you're using Netflix or a blog or a so-called "private" site you should still ask yourself if you really feel comfortable putting this information online forever. And if it turns out you're not, then it's a lesson you learn once, and then you stop putting those things online, and that one-time lesson might be bleh but it's not going to ruin your life unless you've done something colossally stupid.

(Those three big Internet Drama things? One of them happened on Facebook, and it was the least dramatic of the three. The other two happened respectively on a public blog and a public forum. So in neither of the cases was privacy a factor in the Internet Drama's happening, and in neither case did the public nature of the forum make people give a damn afterwards.)

Lots of kids, for example, wet the bed when they're kids. And yet adult bedwetters are probably not reassured by that fact.

So, what, you stop growing up once you're a grown-up? I mean, I've seen a bunch of people acting like they're eighteen when clearly they should have stopped acting that way twenty years ago, but I still don't totally grasp why. Making yourself a different person isn't a process with a college expiration date. What makes it harder to suddenly move past a terrible day and forget it? Why's the emotional baggage so much heavier?
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:36 PM on May 17, 2010


The problem with Facebook isn't that people can use it to post information publicly. The problem is that, due to frequently changing policy and no clear indicators of how public information will be, it's far too easy to publish things accidentally.

We're all happy to debate the wisdom of sharing this or that piece of information,* or whether Zuckerberg is an admirable entrepreneur or a ruthless bastard willing to sell out hundreds of millions people who've trusted him, but that's all secondary fluff.

If we thought people were publishing this information intentionally, we wouldn't have bothered to make Openbook.

*I'm with me & my monkey, btw. All the text you'll read and write in your lifetime can be searched in a couple milliseconds by your average laptop, and I'm quite certain the internet can find something to cause you pain.
posted by Rictic at 5:38 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


People have been complaining about Facebook for so long and with so much obnoxious smugness that I kind of tuned out this latest controversy for a while. "It's for a generation of narcissistic oversharers who don't care about privacy!" "My life is so full and busy that I don't care about 'connecting' with people online." That is, pretty much the same things they said about blogs, Livejournal, e-mail, and the entire Internet. In fact, I recall a lot of these people being excited that blogs were finally "dying" now that everyone's moving over to social networking sites. And now it turns out that there really is something to the latest charges -- Facebook really is violating users' privacy. But unfortunately, "privacy" has now been redefined as something that someone who wants to write for an online audience, any audience, doesn't value by definition. After years of being told that you've voluntarily given up your privacy if you've ever posted anything online that you don't want your boss, your grandmother and your priest to see, it's going to be hard to get anyone to care.
posted by transona5 at 5:39 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The whole Beacon deal is why I'm kind of surprised they're pulling the shit they're pulling now. Like, they're doing the same thing that got them in huge trouble last time, pretty much. ... I don't feel a personal animosity towards Zuckerberg. I think he's being an idiot rather than being evil, and I can excuse idiocy.

I'm curious as to when his company's activities would cross the line from "idiotic" to "evil" in your mind. I could see excusing Beacon as merely a shocking display of ignorance, but to keep going around pulling crap like this after the uproar that caused is pretty far out there. If you do something that unintentionally causes personal harm to millions of people, find out about it, and then keep on doing variations of that same thing, ignorance is no longer an excuse.

When you view Facebook as a big college experiment and not as Serious Business, then when it has these fuck-ups it's less a drastic thing and more of an "Oh, Facebook."


But it is serious business. Zuckerberg is a billionaire and has been running Facebook since 2004. This isn't some dumb college kid getting drunk and peeing on a car.
posted by wondermouse at 5:55 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


When you view Facebook as a big college experiment and not as Serious Business, then when it has these fuck-ups it's less a drastic thing and more of an "Oh, Facebook."

Well pardon me for saying this, but that's a dumb-ass view. It's completely disconnected from reality. Just like the differences between children and adults that have come up already, things that might be tolerable when you're running a "big college experiment" out of your parents' garage are not tolerable when you're running the most popular web site in the US.

Why's the emotional baggage so much heavier?

There are many observable facts that I can't explain. But this should be obvious to any college-age person. People are allowed all sorts of transgressions in their youth that aren't acceptable in middle-age, middle-class adults. And the stakes for violating these rules are higher than you seem to think - if I've learned nothing else from having a spouse work at EEOC, I've learned that.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:03 PM on May 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


All of the Facebook cross-domain stuff makes me less likely to participate on another website.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:05 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Perhaps it's just that most of mine are in their 30's, 40's and 50's, but this hardly ever happens with my friends. Age is not a reliable indicator of mental maturity, of course. But still, it's all very low-drama, and low-oversharing.

Seconded. You folks seeing all the drama, uh, maybe you have really dramatic friends? Or really dramatic "friends?"
posted by desuetude at 7:11 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm curious as to when his company's activities would cross the line from "idiotic" to "evil" in your mind. I could see excusing Beacon as merely a shocking display of ignorance, but to keep going around pulling crap like this after the uproar that caused is pretty far out there. If you do something that unintentionally causes personal harm to millions of people, find out about it, and then keep on doing variations of that same thing, ignorance is no longer an excuse.

Yeah, it's not ignorance. It's stubbornness. It's why Facebook keeps plunging ahead and adding features that practically none of its users care about. It's not like with Beacon they stopped and said "Okay, this isn't a path we want to go down." Rather, they paused and tried to figure out how to go down that path anyway without alienating everybody. I don't totally know if they're failing. While the tech outrage is much bigger, I don't see any of my friends protesting Facebook like they did last time. So perhaps people care more about random publishing mishaps than they do about general feed privacy. Or perhaps Facebook just took the time to let people uncheck that privacy box.

For Facebook, crossing over to unacceptable for me would have to involve some sort of relative permanence with data. Right now I still have complete control over the contents of my profile, if not their privacy. If they ever do something that locks my profile in and prevents me from altering data, then they're doing something I'm not comfortable with. (I don't know what practical gain that would earn them, so I'm not awfully worried.) But I don't view most tech actions as evil. Companies actively damaging the environment are evil. Companies messing with data would have to do an awful lot to count as evil. I see companies like Facebook or Google as more bothersome than anything when they mess up, and that bother usually doesn't prevent me from using their services.

But it is serious business. Zuckerberg is a billionaire and has been running Facebook since 2004. This isn't some dumb college kid getting drunk and peeing on a car.

Well pardon me for saying this, but that's a dumb-ass view. It's completely disconnected from reality. Just like the differences between children and adults that have come up already, things that might be tolerable when you're running a "big college experiment" out of your parents' garage are not tolerable when you're running the most popular web site in the US.

I don't consider company size when I'm judging a company just as I try not to judge a person's celebrity when I'm judging them. If they're abusing what they have — if Facebook somehow attempted a monopolistic attack against some other site — then suddenly their size matters. Until then, it's great that Facebook's enormous and successful, but I'm still going to judge it by its relative merit to me, and not assume that it has any greater responsibility.

(Again, this has a lot to do with the fact that it's a web site providing an immaterial service and not a company dealing with physical changes to the world. But that's because Facebook overall has a smaller imprint on the world than its size would imply.)

Possibly this has to do with spending time around tech ideas and tech people. The value of an idea or the quality of a service has nothing to do with how successful it ends up. Some of my favorite online services have been small and cheap. Some of them have been enormous. But there're large services that suck and small ones that are even worse. So while I like that Facebook's big and I think it utterly deserved its victory over MySpace, those feelings have more to do with Facebook's design than they have to do with, say, the resolve of Facebook's ethics.

So I think that Facebook is an asshole company. I don't think it's an evil company. And I can tolerate an asshole as long as it's not actively hurting me, and I can understand people who don't like said asshole. But just because that asshole's rich and famous doesn't mean it's gone from asshole to villain.

There are many observable facts that I can't explain. But this should be obvious to any college-age person. People are allowed all sorts of transgressions in their youth that aren't acceptable in middle-age, middle-class adults. And the stakes for violating these rules are higher than you seem to think - if I've learned nothing else from having a spouse work at EEOC, I've learned that.

The stakes for, what, wetting your bed? Or for accidentally revealing a purchase you wanted to keep a secret? Or for saying that you hate your boss and your boss finding out? Those are the transgressions we're talking about, right? Because the first two might be a little socially embarrassing, and the last one might get you in a little trouble at work, but these aren't decisions that're going to fuck up a life.

Of course, I'm also naive enough to think it's possible to work for somebody you don't hate, or with people who don't treat a status update like it's the be-all end-all of a person's consciousness. I also somehow managed to amass a bunch of friends who talk to each other civilly and generally keep up gentle, intelligent conversation on Facebook. So perhaps I'm just lucky enough to live a life where I get kicks outside of being an asshole on a private web site, and so I don't appreciate the losses of the people for whom that private web site is inexplicably a big deal.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:17 PM on May 17, 2010


They've had this privacy model that is more sophisticated than the one offered by nearly every other blog/social networking site for longer than most social networking sites have existed. It's a classic example of somebody getting it mostly right and everybody else just sort of ignoring it.

The thing that LiveJournal gets wrong is not restricting the length of entries. Oooof. There's something to be said for this enforced brevity thing.
posted by desuetude at 8:29 PM on May 17, 2010


Hrm, the Privacy Scanner bookmarklet isn't... bookmarkletting for me. It's a link to a Javascript file, and clicking it just displays that Javascript file in my browser. That happening to anyone else?

... worked in Safari, where it's a javascript: link instead of just an http: link to the javascript file. Bizarre.
posted by mendel at 9:44 PM on May 17, 2010


Right now I still have complete control over the contents of my profile, if not their privacy. For Facebook, crossing over to unacceptable for me would have to involve some sort of relative permanence with data.

I made my 'likes' private when Facebook said I could share them with the entire world, or not at all. The likes are still stored, however, and I cannot find a way to delete them.
posted by zippy at 9:58 PM on May 17, 2010


Right now I still have complete control over the contents of my profile, if not their privacy. For Facebook, crossing over to unacceptable for me would have to involve some sort of relative permanence with data.

I made my 'likes' private when Facebook said I could share them with the entire world, or not at all. The likes are still stored, however, and I cannot find a way to delete them.


Yeah, and FB definitely is still trying to get me to friend people based on the fact that we went to the same high school despite having supposedly deleted my high school when I refused to add it as a page a couple of weeks ago. I can't find any place in which Facebook admits that it knows what high school I went to, but it clearly has it squirreled away someplace.

To me, this amateurishness is what has me the most worried about FB. You shouldn't be exposing the fact that you're still using data you said you deleted. Yeah, keep it as an audit trail, but for crying out loud, when a user says to delete something you better make that noise look deleted or look like you don't know what the hell you're doing. Thank god, I haven't given them that much PII. But if they'd ever gotten my credit card number out of me I would be cancelling that card, oh, approximately yesterday.

I guess what's really alienated me from FB is that it feels less like they're run by socially incompetent nerds and more like they're run by some sick combination of nerds and moderately sociopathic fratboy ad executives. This combination is utterly toxic. They don't understand how you feel about anything, and once you make it clear to them, they make it clear right back that they don't actually care because while you were complaining look how many pageviews they just got.

I've been on FB since 2004 - joined it the very first day it opened up to my school - and I miss so much what it used to be. Yeah, it was kinda elitist and ivory-tower, but I loved that I could see everyone in Math 140 at a glance and figure out if anyone lived near enough to me to be a walkable study partner. I'm kind of still a member out of nostalgia for how fun it used to be.
posted by little light-giver at 11:06 PM on May 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Yeah, and FB definitely is still trying to get me to friend people based on the fact that we went to the same high school despite having supposedly deleted my high school when I refused to add it as a page a couple of weeks ago. I can't find any place in which Facebook admits that it knows what high school I went to, but it clearly has it squirreled away someplace.

I could be wrong, but this may be less a matter of information they shouldn't retain but do, and more that they are trying to pair you up with people your friends (and their friends) have friended. The suggestions are supposed to show people that your friends have connected to, or that their friends are linked to. People you may be familiar with through second and third degrees of separation.
posted by zarq at 7:17 AM on May 18, 2010


ReclaimPrivacy.org

Another tool: SaveFace from Untangle.
posted by ericb at 1:36 PM on May 18, 2010


Facebook To Launch “Simplistic” Privacy Choices Soon
"Reacting to the latest privacy backlash, Facebook will be rolling out new 'simplistic' privacy options for its users in the coming weeks, according to Facebook head of public policy Tim Sparapani."
posted by ericb at 1:39 PM on May 18, 2010


Can someone very patient please explain to me how we know that the Reclaim Privacy site isn't some sort of information-collecting scam in itself? I know exactly zero about programming, so looking at the source code doesn't help me. Sorry I'm dumb!

Back on topic: I cleared out all of my interests and groups the other day because there's just too much public access to that information. I'm not ashamed of what those things say about me, but I don't think my current or future employers need to know about them in order to hire me. But I can't quit Facebook because it's a valuable tool for networking and staying in touch with colleagues. And as someone who's been searching for a job in her field for, oh, about three years now, I need as much help as I can get. Hopefully they'll add back some of the privacy features in the near future. Heh.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 3:23 PM on May 18, 2010


I deleted my account. I posted almost no personal info there, but it always felt just a little creepy. I miss it a little, but it's so not worth the hassle.
posted by evilmomlady at 6:54 AM on May 19, 2010


I deleted my account.

I've never really had a proper account (fake name, no personal info) but I suspect I'll just keep the one I have because so damned much stuff does continue to go down on Facebook. That said, I do now respond to all requests that I join Facebook (I get at least three a week) with the following message:

>>>

FACEBOOK IS EVIL

May 31st is QUIT FACEBOOK DAY

For a lot of people, quitting Facebook revolves around privacy. This is a legitimate concern, but we also think the privacy issue is just the symptom of a larger set of issues. The cumulative effects of what Facebook does now will not play out well in the future, and we care deeply about the future of the web as an open, safe and human place. We just can't see Facebook's current direction being aligned with any positive future for the web, so we're leaving.

FACEBOOK IS EVIL


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posted by philip-random at 8:53 AM on May 19, 2010


There is no such thing as a free lunch, and everyone is entitled to decide how much is too much to pay for that lunch. If you don't think it's worth it, then by all means, leave. I was on Friendster, MySpace, and now Facebook - when a better lunch comes along, I'll go there, but until then, I could give a crap what Zuckerberg does with the pitiful amount of data I give him.

I love this idea that somehow we're all entitled to privacy - even those things we do in public should somehow be kept secret. Maybe it's the recent urbanization of the US that is at the heart of this, but I think people need to realize that until know it's never been an expectation, and those of us who grew up with everyone trying to know our shit have learned to keep said shit OFF of Facebook. If you can't trust your friends to not post embarrassing photos for everyone and their uncle to see - get new friends, don't blame the medium by which it was done.

And....get off my lawn!!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:15 AM on May 19, 2010


From today's deleted thread:

Hardly a week passes when someone doesn't tell me that I need to get The Facebook.

Hardly a week passes when mefi doesn't gnash its teeth and beat its breast that I am still on. Look, as I have said here before, the trivial amount of personal information that I have on Facebook is what I am okay with the world knowing (my name, the city I lived in when I joined a few years ago, the names of some people I know) and probably could be gleaned by other means by anyone dedicated to the project.

And the upside of it is that I reconnected with a university classmate through FB, and we now live together happily. And I get to kick a childhood rival's ass at Lexulous more or less daily.

So, Facebook critics: please enlighten me. Right now a glance at my profile page there will give you my name and gender and the name of a city I used to live in. Careful combing through everything (photos, the few stated interests, groups) could adduce that I have travelled a fair bit, that I am somewhat politically liberal and around forty. And I know five people named Paul. Tell me, specifically what dangers do I face in marketers knowing all this?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:32 AM on May 19, 2010


You know, it's because of Facebook that The Most Serene Republic sends me URLs to exclusive downloads. It's because of Facebook that I engage in a dialogue with the guys in We Were Promised Jetpacks. Neil Gaiman's page sends out some amazing stuff, and following Billy Bragg on Facebook during the recent U.K. elections was absolutely fascinating.

And what do I give up in exchange for this awesomeness? I make it a little bit easier for marketers to tailor their pitches to me. Guess what - I don't care. In the 21st century we are all being marketed to, nearly 100% of the time. Does "advertisers know that I like Neko Case" really frighten anyone?
posted by jbickers at 3:11 AM on May 20, 2010


Does "advertisers know that I like Neko Case" really frighten anyone?

No but if I'm a near future right wing fascist, your "following Billy Bragg during the recent UK elections" would certainly earn you inclusion in the "to be watched" file.
posted by philip-random at 10:24 AM on May 20, 2010


WSJ: Facebook, MySpace and several other social-networking sites have been sending data to advertising companies that could be used to find consumers' names and other personal details, despite promises they don't share such information without consent.
posted by zarq at 9:05 PM on May 20, 2010


Facebook Privacy Makes The Cover of Time Magazine. Article: Facebook Mania
posted by zarq at 9:06 PM on May 20, 2010


Infrastructures
posted by homunculus at 11:31 AM on May 21, 2010


Report claims that around 60 per cent of Facebook users are considering deleting their profile.
posted by ericb at 1:15 PM on May 21, 2010


Facebook CEO Is Sorry You're So Dumb
posted by homunculus at 10:04 AM on May 24, 2010


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