Every time privacy policies are tweaked at Facebook, you should be worried. The company is looking for new ways to make money, and in this day and age that means selling you things. And all of those personal details you've entered into your Facebook account are the keys to the monetization kingdom. Maybe that works just fine for you. That's not the problem. As users, we ought to have a clear choice and we don't. That's the problem. Since the most recent changes this month, we've been bumping into all sorts of sharp commentary on Facebook privacy and helpful guides to getting your privacy back. Here's the best of what we've found:
Perhaps the best analysis of the recent changes came via the Twitter account of tech-guru Anil Dash: "Will someone ask [CEO Mark Zuckerberg] why he doesn't use Facebook's default privacy at F8 tomorrow? If it's not good enough for him then why's it OK for us?"
Here's a creepy tool: Want to know what data Facebook published about you? It's a sluggish tool, since it seems the entire internet is there typing in usernames, but here it is: http://zesty.ca/facebook/.
In her CNET column, How Facebook Is Putting its Users Last, Molly Wood has this to say:
Let's be clear: I hold few illusions that Facebook's business strategy has ever been about anything other than building up a huge user base and then selling ads to those users. And obviously, the more targeted the ads, the easier it is to get people interested in them. But as the opportunities for data mining and targeting grow, Facebook faces a growing problem: how to get the data, if the users won't share it.
Facebook has created an unprecedented web (if you will) of connected users, with connections to other users who are more than willing to specify, in great detail, their interests, hobbies, and buying habits. The only problem? Those pesky private profiles.
Users tend to want to protect that data, at least a little bit, and at least some of it has to be "public," if it's to be used for the kind of behavioral targeting and, ultimately, ad targeting that really brings in the big bucks. And that is really the only explanation left for why Facebook has now gotten so shrilly insistent on you publicizing virtually every facet of your life. It's not about the user anymore, people (if it ever was).
It's possible that Facebook will do what it has done in the past when privacy concerns take hold of its users: offer up the non-apology apology. Daniel Sinker wrote a concise history of Facebook's non-apologies during the last time Facebook reminded us how much we value our privacy. He ended on a rather sour note, and it's where I'm going to leave you now: "Really, they've got all your content already—where are you going to go?" Ugh.