Has Facebook become too big for it’s boots?

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The recent controversy surrounding Facebook and its use of users data set me thinking. Of course there are many who consider that if you are willing to access the Internet and place any of your personal data on any website for whatever reason,  then you can more or less kiss your privacy goodbye and that none of us should expect anything different.  But is it really inevitable? An impossibility to be able to use social networking sites and still keep most of your details private? Or allow some users to view some data but not others? And should we expect social networking sites to have the right to use our data in whatever way they like?

I make no secret of actually not being a huge fan of Facebook even before all this controversy about their use of our data. I only joined in the first place because a family member asked me to, but since then quite a few family members have also joined, thereby creating a kind of snowball effect where you stay on there because everyone else is using the site.  Because of its popularity its hard not to find anyone who isn’t on Facebook!  But is all that about to change? Is the tide turning? There have been some defections of late especially from a few media savvy type of users who feel that Facebook set out to be one thing in the first place and has now turned into an entirely different beast altogether as it has become more popular.

I also happen to think that there are much better Social Networking sites around that are far superior, but of course that’s my own personal view. I hate the way that if you do want to take a look or try out one of the Games and/or applications on there, they blatantly refuse to work unless you supply not only your personal data, but that of your friends as well. Yet strangely, not many users on Facebook actually seem to question this. Why? Why do the applications on Facebook need to know the names of your friends before they will let you access them or begin to play them?

farmville on facebook You could argue I suppose that its a way to gain more users so if one person begins to use your application or game and a proviso of that usage is that they supply you with their friends data, you can then contact all those friends and they will also join. But why not just simply leave it to the user to ‘spread the word’ about your application? After all, I could argue if its a brilliant game or application then surely your users will tell others about it and especially in the case of a game, encourage their family and friends to join them in playing it? Why not use that strategy instead? The other annoyance of course is the constant updates arriving in your Facebook feed from friends and family about the applications! Grrr!

It also left me wondering just what these applications were actually doing with all this data that they collect? The other annoyance for me personally is that Facebook is the only Social networking site where I can’t use my nickname. (which is actually the name that most others know me by on the internet anyway.)

I tried. Oh how I tried! It would not accept any of my ‘workarounds’ that I vainly used to get it to accept me as Technogran! The argument given regarding that pet peeve is that Facebook is a site where others can find you because they know your real name.  Now that might have been true when Facebook first began and was aimed solely at old friends that you had lost touch with from University, College or school, but now its a feeble reason in my opinion, especially where women are concerned who have probably changed their maiden name at least once, thereby rendering the insistence on users such as myself to use my real name in order that old school chums, work colleagues etc can easily find me, as completely irrelevant. 

But it does allow advertisers, businesses etc to be able to access my real name AND all my data that they can use to their advantage. And this is the big problem. WHO really does have access to your data? Or is it rendered no longer yours by the very fact that you have bothered to fill in all those details in response to the excuse ‘so that your friends can easily find you.’  Who asked users if it was okay to hand out that data? Who asked users if it was okay to change privacy settings and allow other sites to be able to access your data? Did Facebook users give permission for all this to happen, or was it just enabled without so much as a ‘by your leave.’  I have to ask myself, now that Facebook has become so gigantic, has it now become ‘too big for its boots?’

TG

Some other reads about this subject.

http://computer-internet-technology.blogspot.com/2010/05/some-quitting-facebook-as-privacy.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8681730.stm

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/7714942/Facebook-executive-responds-to-users-privacy-concerns.html

http://www.downloadsquad.com/2010/05/15/facebook-privacy-search-public-updates/

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/05/14/facebook_privacy_rebuke/

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About technogran
A granny and a geek? You bet! Still trying desperately to keep up with it all.

18 Responses to Has Facebook become too big for it’s boots?

  1. Greg Edwards says:

    TG,

    I’m not quite sold that Facebook is evil. Sure they’ve made some gaffes of late with regard to security and privacy of user data, but I think the service trying to transform itself to stay relevant amidst a tide of competitors. Most people still agree that social networking is nothing less than a revolution in the way we connect and share information with each other; however, it’s still so early in the game that dominance by any service cannot be guaranteed, even for a behemoth like Facebook. Now that the initial buzz has worn off and people are looking for different and deeper ways to connect with each other, I think Facebook is simply trying to figure out how to balance the need for privacy against the need for openness.

    I don’t think that anyone who uses a social site hands over the keys to their personal privacy. But most people just aren’t careful enough with their information. As convoluted as Facebook’s security settings are, the service probably shares some of the blame. But more often than not, people just don’t exercise good judgment. It’s like the kid who’s found the keys to his parents’ car and takes it for a joyride without really knowing how to drive.

    It’s interesting that some people are such self-promoters that they lay themselves wide open in their blogs or on Twitter, but as soon as their family or boss can see it (which is a lot more likely on services like Facebook), they’re suddenly concerned about security. I’ve found myself wondering on occasion what my boss or my mom would think of that sarcastic comment I just posted to my wall. Is that Facebook’s fault or my own?

    I guess I’m somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t bother me in the least if Facebook knows my real name or shares some of my information with the world, and I do think it helps forge better connections with the real people that I care about, including friends, family, colleagues, and classmates. I’ve even managed to pull most of my virtual friends into my network there. For the most part, I’ve managed to steer clear of the cr”apps” and their notifications (but I do enjoy the occasional round of FarmVille). However, I do think that any social network worth its salt needs to ensure that those users who prefer the cloak of anonymity are protected. Those who choose to create a walled garden need to realize that it’s liable to be a pretty lonely existence.

    Regardless, I just wanted to say this is a well-written, thoughtful, and all around excellent post, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Bravo!

    • technogran says:

      Thanks Greg for you comments. (It’s a wonder actually that I even managed to get it published, all the bother I am having! I agree with everything you have said, it IS up to each of us to make sure that we don’t put anything up here online that we wouldn’t want our boss to see for example. But the recent ‘rants’ about Facebook go more deeper than that.
      It’s about who they are handing our data to (who has access to it) and did they enable this for their own benefit (in other words, to make money from users data) and did they obtain users permission to ‘pass on’ that data.
      I am sure that none of us disaggree with Facebook becoming more open Greg, after all, nearly everyone used to complain about it being too ‘closed’ before, its how they are going about it all.
      Ride rough shod over your users, and you will regret the consequences.

  2. Seika says:

    It’s like global warming. Peoples are aware, but it’s too bothersome to switch and rebuild everything. 😛

    I think, not many peoples care, as long as they can have it working. Faulty planes are alright until some dozens of peoples died in a crash. As long as there’s no some big things that would ruin their life beyond the “that wouldn’t happen to me” threshold, life goes on.

    I hate apps, but peoples I’m interested might sticks because of it, so yes, indirectly I had trouble leaving because of those annoying games. Also there’s more information from local business there compared to Twitter (because more peoples in FB, lets focus the marketing effort there)

    • technogran says:

      I agree Seika. To take myself as an example, I was very reluctant to join Facebook, I have closed my account on there a few times but then enc up coming back because there are quite a few members of my family on there who I don’t keep in touch with by telephone. It’s nice to see there updates and keep in touch with them that way. Just wish they would all start using the Windows Live site instead………..sigh

      • Seika says:

        I think it’ll be fun if there’s kind of internet nomaden group, moving from one social networking to another as soon as it shows up. And because they never stays in one place, never put too much of their data in place they’ll sure abandon.

        But that’s all different from the purpose of these social profile services 😀

  3. Thomas says:

    Okay, I happen to come across your blog on this. I’m going to chime in as an advertiser, getting any ads approved through facebook is as easy as transmuting lead into gold. They only allow the most basic of messages. The metrics to which we advertise by are very basic also, but very targeted. I work for http://www.stanfordwhoswho.com, we target people who are looking to market themselves, or place positive press about themselves on the internet. If we were a shoe company, we’d target people who have that listed as an interest. It’s just the same as google. No where, do I have access to your private information… nor do I really want it. I think FB opening up people’s privacy was a (bad or otherwise) corporate move to increase their value. Information is power, now they have it, and can do what they want with it. The only unanswered question is what will they do with it.

    • technogran says:

      Thank you Thomas for your insight into an advertisers perspective. In a way, I personally don’t mind tagetted adverts (although as a retired ‘long in the tooth user’ it was a little bit unnerviing to be targetted on Facebook with age related ads!) I’m not quite for the knackers yard yet! 😉
      I do agree with your last sentence, this is the big worry, what will they do with it?

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  5. Dave Howes says:

    I do wonder sometimes why some people actually join Facebook. I joined just over a year ago because it was so open, and a big plus for me was actually being able to use my own name. I’ve always been suspicious of pseudonym’s, and it’s a constant irritation to me that we are more or less forced to use them all over the internet.

    The latest anti-Facebook paranoia seems to be very muddled as well. When the recent changes happened, I looked at my settings, and the few bits I had made private were still private, the public bits still public. I knew over a year ago that pubic postings of mine would be just that, and would turn up on friends pages for others to see, nothing at all has changed there, except now you DO have the option of stopping that happening. I also keep hearing of all the evil things that Facebook can do with all the data, but not a single example of anything bad ever happening. The worst anyone seems to be able to come up with is targeted advertising, and since Facebook took back control of this, even the worst excesses of that have stopped. (no more age related stuff 🙂 ) Virtually every company in the world, (or individual for that matter) is capable of doing evil things, but that doesn’t mean that they are going to

    • technogran1 says:

      Which site forces you to use a pseudonym? I have never come across one Dave? But Facebook is the only social networking site that forces me to use my real name…..and as for the anti-Facebook paranoia as you refer to it, as far as your concerned everyone’s either panicking over nothing, making a mountain out of a molehill or we’re all wrong about it. Hmm. So those who are now busily investigating Facebook are wasting their time are they, and the Facebook bods needn’t go into a panic and alter anything, or make it easier for users to understand who has access to what?

      • Dave Howes says:

        C’mon, pseudonym’s are everywhere. To name just a few I’ve used this morning so far – Hobnox, Netvibes, Soundcloud, and even the BBC. I use ‘davepegz’ as a sort of official pseudonym for myself everywhere I have to, but I’m not happy about it. It all harks back to the earliest days of the web, when the thinking was that everyone should have a unique user name, and it’s stuck. There is no reason at all for the same name to be used over and over, as long as it’s coupled with a unique password and email address. I think it goes back to the time when, for the average geek, being known throughout the world as ‘The Terminator’ seemed pretty cool. Once you start having to be ‘The Terminator486’ though, it’s a bit less cool 🙂

        Are the people investigating Facebook wasting their time? Well, I think so. If you look at the various groups doing this, they are mostly very small self-appointed watchdogs, many with private agenda’s of their own, including, in three extreme cases, wanting to shut down the internet altogether! I could easily start a pressure group to get Facebook to be MORE open, and I reckon I would get hundreds of thousands of members. But even if I only had 2 members, I would still have the right to make an official complaint that Facebook wasn’t open enough.

        The other point, of course, is that most of the current crop of scares can be traced directly back to a man who goes by the rather geeky pseudonym of ‘yoda’, who just happens to be starting his own social networking site. Of course, that could just be a coincidence……………

    • technogran1 says:

      Here’s some more on the controversy this time including MySpace as well. Apparently, every time you clicked on one of their ads, your NAME, and details were sent to the advertisers.
      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704513104575256701215465596.html# (Wall Street Journal)

      • Dave Howes says:

        Yet another paranoia inducing article from the states.
        Several points to note –
        1 – it’s the usual collection of ‘cans’ and ‘maybe’s’ without a single ‘this has happened.
        2 – it relates to a very old ‘problem’ that was sorted out ages ago.
        3 – The ‘problem’ described is only standard web browser behaviour. If you visit my website, I can look at the stats and at a glance see your ip address, the websites you visited before mine, and the websites you went to afterwards. If you went from my site to, say, your Live profile page, I would know exactly who you were. But, as with Facebook, only the info you have chosen to share with the world. The fact that a name is used in the coded address makes tracing someone no easier at all.
        4 – Ok, so after spending a lot of money in manpower and computer resources, they now know that one of the 573 Dave Howse’s on Facebook clicked on one of their adverts, exactly what good is that going to do them. People in the ad business are not fools. They are not going to waste time and money collecting random information about you even if they could.
        5 – If all this stuff is going on, and they know everything about me from reading and analysing all my details, how come I still get endless adverts for iPads ?

  6. Sandra Lee says:

    Excellent article, very good questions. I’m far less enchanted with Facebook now and rarely use it. I only stay there because my other friends are there. I wonder if creating a “page” might be a way to use your nick name instead of real name? You probably thought of that one! Stay well.

    • technogran1 says:

      Thanks Sandra. Same as me then, its all about members of my family being on there for me or I certainly wouldn’t bother with it. Windows Live is far better as a Social Networking’ site in my view.

  7. Cassandra says:

    THIS is why I never play any of the games, etc on Facebook…mostly I just use it to leave messages as to how and what I am doing and occasional links back to my blog. It’s ok too for instant messaging with friends who happen to be on-line at the time. But the games etc are out. I might not object to supplying MY data to use a game but I’m damned if I’m going to subject all my friends to annoying ads, etc from these “apps” just because I wanted to try out one of them.

    • technogran says:

      Yes Cassie, its why I don’t go on Facebook if I can help it preferring to do my updates elsewhere if I possibly can. I will be commenting on my friends and families updates on Facebook from either Flock in future or alternatively Windows Live. (Messenger Social.)
      I HATE those applications and games on Facebook

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