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Facebook, Privacy, and Compromise
By: Jeff Louis
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If you work for Facebook, the world is your oyster. The Facebook Developers Conference went well, a joint Facebook/Nielsen study shows that Facebook ads aid brand recall, you're working for the largest online Web site community and online destination in history, and the site's future seems limitless. Indeed, your founder, Mark Zuckerberg, and various news sources believe a chance exists that Facebook will "take over" the Internet

The site has become somewhat indispensable for millions; it counts members who speak 70 different languages and are located in more than 180 countries. Depending on your view, Zuckerberg's "college social experiment" has either evolved into its own medium or spun rapidly out of control.

According to the site's press page, 400 million people are current, active users, of which 70 percent access Facebook's 550,000 applications. I've alluded to the fact this would make Facebook the third largest in the world behind China and India.

Facebook is a unique, ubiquitous enigma that's evolved into a mashup of people, images, videos, information, businesses, charities, and applications in a big sweaty blob of online "stuff." Most cannot comprehend the infinite spiderweb that is Facebook nor can we begin to understand how deeply integrated the site has become to its conglomeration of users.

Facebook keeps your past and changes your future. It can ruin your relationships and can tear apart your family. Facebook can save your life, or under certain circumstances, it may help end your life. Oh, it's also reported to be addictive

The onslaught of news following F8 (Facebook Developers Conference) included the Like Button, an announcement that Facebook and Microsoft had teamed up (a scary thought), and the much bandied-about changes to Facebook's privacy policy.

Of these various news items, the ever-changing privacy policy is the one that's getting the most coverage, of course. It raises the question whether Facebook has become "Big Brother," seducing us at the beginning and then changing radically over time once we're "stuck" in the relationship. Users disparaged the privacy changes before even being announced, and users.

Facebook, however, didn't backtrack this time like they did previously when the terms of service were "updated." They went forward with the new privacy policy and caught users off guard because they're instantly opted-in

The "new" policy states: “In order to provide you with useful social experiences on Facebook, we occasionally need to provide general information about you to pre-approved third party websites and applications that use the platform at the time you visit them. Similarly, when one of your friends visits a pre-approved website or application, it will receive general information about you so you and your friend can be connected on that website as well."

How many times will Facebook be able to snub its users before there's a mass exodus? Better yet, will Facebook's users ever have the guts to close down their profiles and put Facebook away? I'm betting against both at the present time.

Facebook's omnipresence is disturbing; it's this universal presence, combined with a general apathy or lack of understanding by the majority of users how changes will personally affect them, that allows Facebook to make sweeping reformations without resistance. 

According to the security firm, Sophos, 95 percent of surveyed users disagree with the change, yet just as in voting for state and federal reforms, most are either unaware of what's at stake or simply don't care. However, with Facebook, it's a question of motivation. Many users who have been members for years still don't know how to set their privacy applications, even though thousands of blogs and news articles show demonstrate this in simple steps. These same sources also warn of the consequences of not changing privacy settings. 

Unfortunately, I'm as much to blame as anyone who writes positively about Facebook, heralding the site's awesome ability to target specific groups of people. In doing so, I'm fully aware of the consequences and strive to highlight the compromises we make when we trade our personal information for access.

My advice, as always, is to go through your personal privacy and application settings and make sure they're set to your liking. If you don't understand how to change your settings, type "How do I set privacy on Facebook?" into your browser.

My other suggestion is to dump your applications, but I don't think there's much of a chance that will happen soon.


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About the Author

Jeff Louis: Media Planner, Brand Project Manager, blogger, and aspiring writer. Please leave a comment or get in touch with Jeff on Twitter. As always, thank you for reading!

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