Pages

Monday, May 03, 2010

Facebook, Privacy, and One Librarian's Opinion

The Facebook Beef.

Everyone is taking sides on either extreme. It's either "I want to lock my social network down so no one can access anything and I am an island of internet" or "Don't be an idiot, everything on the web is billboard-worthy and privacy is a thing of the past."

The debate has many of us on FriendFeed wanting to shake people like Etch-a-Sketches. You can be holier-than-thou ("You should expect this from a monetized company!"), smug ("Told you this would happen.), an apologist ("Maybe Zuckerberg means well and is just forwarding the case for open networks,") or suspicious ("I heard if you get your settings wrong, companies and applications can steal your pictures and use them for ads."). In any case, most people are missing the point.

It's not the nerds, social networking experts, librarians, Alex Scobles or other techgeeks Facebooks awful privacy settings take advantage of, though we're teh ones bitching to high heaven for or against them.

It's the casual user. It's your mother, your Aunt Louise, and your next door neighbor. Perhaps it's you.

The argument I hear most often is that folks should read Terms of Service Agreements carefully and keep up with the netchatter surrounding the issue to be educated about it. That's their job as responsible consumers, right?

Well, sort of.

Yes, folks should read ToS agreements. Have you read the newest many-paged iTunes store agreement updated 4/1/2010? Yeah. That's what I thought. Do you blissfully use your iTunes anyway? Mhm. How ignorant of you.

In good conscience, can you say that the majority of Facebook users understand the real world implication when the little pop-up box states that an application has access to their data? And they'd have to be *looking* for it to find out that even if they fiddle with certain things, apps can get to their data through their friends' profiles.

And the netchatter/blogosphere commentary? Folks who sit online all day keep up with that, people in the information business and those with an interest in privacy keep up with that. What about the countless people who are casual users, who check Facebook to see the latest pictures of grandchildren and commentary from their friends/family, check their email, and leave? There is an army's worth of these people hardly equipped to wade through the multilayer many-click privacy setting process. And while Johnny Worthington some good points, he doesn't address the fact that beyond the folks he helps set up (to whom, I imagine, he explains all of the options, since he seems like a nice guy), most people bumble through setting up their accounts themselves. And once set up, they don't expect to have to deal with the changes that come every few months when Zuckerberg and his ilk decide to switch things up again.

Hell, even if they check the opt-out box (usually the expected end-point for such a transaction for anything but spammy advertisements), they must *still* read the fine print and actively block certain sites anyway. Not user-friendly for me, the info- and net-savvy librarian. Definitely not intuitive or comprehensible to drive-by users.

The basic tenet of Facebook was that you didn't have to be a net expert to use it or understand it. My issue with the problematic (and convoluted) opt-out-for-privacy is that this is the *only* thing Facebook has made more difficult instead of more simple. And that, to me, smacks of dishonesty.

No comments: