Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A short story to illustrate the facebook privacy debacle

In order to convey the ridiculous nature of the facebook privacy debacle, I came up with this short story.

Imagine a company that comes to your home and says to you, "hey we are going to build an awesome community center for you and your friends for FREE, in exchange for allowing us to post advertisements on some of the walls within the building. Don't worry the ads are small and not that noticeable and in exchange we're going to give you an awesome place for you and your friends to hang out, play games, talk about life, share photos and videos, and enjoy each others friendship." The company made a visit to all the homes in town with similar news and soon everyone in town was really excited about these new "hang outs" the company is building for the people. Over time, more and more of your friends started joining your community center and hanging out. Even grandma comes by to say hi, share some photos, and talk about her day. You think to yourself, "this is pretty special." However, you get a knock on the door and it's the nice folks that built your community center and they have some interesting news. They said that they have done lots of research and think it's best that you share all the happenings from inside your community with everyone else in the world so that people with common interests can get to know you better, companies and organizations can serve you better, and in general, it will just make your life better. They also mention that they would like you to wear a device so that when you walk into a store you can immediately announce the store and what you like in it to not only your close group of friends but also to everyone in the world, including the people that own the store. If the store knows this about you they might be able to cut you some good deals on the stuff you like. You think that sounds pretty cool, but that you'd prefer to just share that kind of info with my own group of friends. When you politely say to the man that you're not interested he says, "well you at least have to share your Work and Education, Current City, Hometown, and all your Likes and Interests with everyone in the world or you can't tell anyone in your personal community about those things." You noticed the tone in his voice change and the look in his eye got a little meaner. He then hands you a book about 5 pages thick with new rules and laws about how to share some things in your community and not others and he reminds you the rule book changes as they see fit. You think to yourself, "Darn, it was the old 'Bait and Switch', I should have known. I wonder if anyone else will build these community centers for me and my friends and not ask me to share all my info with the world?"

I am all for openness online but I think it should always remain the choice of the user, not pushed on the user by the company. Also, it should never be confusing when you are sharing info and when you are not sharing info online. Check out this search engine that exposes all public info on facebook. Also, I wonder if Diaspora will ever take off?

1 comment:

Relic said...

I agree with you. The one thing that bugs me to no end about Facebook is that their conception was in privacy. Originally only students were allowed on facebook, and those students could only connect with those within their own university. When Facebook went crazy and opened themselves up to the world, they effectively screwed their entire client base by revealing their secrets and shredding their privacy.