Don't just tell me what you're collecting, and what you do in abstract terms, show me exactly what you have and how you use it. If you have data on the frequency with which I visit friend's profiles, I should be able to see it. If you have data on external links that I've followed, I should be able to see that too. I should be able to see the amount of time I spend logged in, if they track that.
Everything. There should be not one thing that is not available to me through the basic interface. It doesn't have to be on the front page, but there should be an interface and you shouldn't have to be a developer to know how to use it.
I would always favor a company that was open about every piece of data that it held about me, AND everything it did with that data.
I can't help but think this will backfire for FB. Their long-term value is being deeply embedded in people's real lives. The real value of FB for me is that my friends merely need to keep their profiles up to date and I have a self-updating address book and birthday calendar. If no-one lists that then FB is merely as sticky as Twitter which is to say, not much.
Initially, when you have a few people you know really well and get on with, you can post quite freely knowing that it's unlikely to come back and bite you.
Later, as you gain a truckload of acquaintances you have to be much more measured and it winds up feeling like you're running some sort of discount PR agency.
Perhaps Metcalfe's Law applies up to a certain size, and then tails off thereafter.
There is a limit on the number of people that us humans can reasonably be expected to have friendships with. I have a feeling that it is substantially smaller than the number of 'friends' that facebook attracts.
The friendship limit you speak of has been hypothesized by an anthropologist (Robin Dunbar) as being in direct correlation to neocortex size. More recently, it's been called "the monkeysphere".
One can't live like this for too long, you have to be yourself instead of a filtered, cleaned-up politically correct version of yourself.
My problem is that the contract, whether legal or implied, that I had with Facebook offered me a certain level of privacy, and protection of data. This is what Facebook built their reputation on. Because of this contract, I uploaded a lot of personal photos, notes and information and generally became deeply involved in the service.
Every time Facebook have a new API release or re-design, however, I became familiar with the uneasy awareness that another slice of this personal information was about to become available to businesses, friends of friends, the general public and goodness knows who else. The final straw for me was the realisation that my friends list was going to be made public, and there was nothing I could do about it. There is no way I want the list of my personal friends and acquaintances being made public: it is just beyond the pail. In hindsight, I should never have put that information on the web at all, but there you have it -- I trusted Facebook to look after that information, and Facebook repeatedly broke my trust, and that's why I've left.
I believe that there is very good reason to protect the basic tenets of our privacy online, and Facebook have shown themselves singularly incapable of doing that. As well as that, I am highly unimpressed with the direction and quality of the product, particularly the UI which has devolved from one of the best on the web to a cluttered, unpleasant mess.
I haven't missed Facebook once. Nowadays, I stick to Twitter, where the contract is clear. Everything is public, and we all know where we stand.
He has no idea.
My guess at a phenomenological relationship for ethics as a function of time in this situation would be
E = E0 exp(-ĸt)
where E0 is am empirically determined constant, and dependent on the individual, and ĸ = a measure of the social debt owed to the people pulling the strings. Note that the unit of ĸ is inverse time. This indicates that when the string-pullers obtain their leverage quickly, as in this case, ĸ is large.
Why? Doing something bad doesn't become OK just because you got paid a lot of money to do it. Indeed, a reasonable definition of ethical behaviour would be doing the right thing even when faced with significant incentives not to.
I disagree. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. If John repeatedly does bad things, then John is a bad person. How are we to judge a person fairly, if not by how they conduct themselves?
that is to say that you sit in harsh judgement of mark zuckerberg only seeing his actions without truly understanding his intentions.
>How are we to judge a person fairly, if not by how they conduct themselves?
That is kind of the point. Arguably, you just can't judge people fairly, because you never know what's going on inside.
That doesn't mean that you can't criticize people's actions, just that you should be cautious about making more fundamental judgments about their character.
Sure, someone's moral character isn't a black-and-white question. People aren't really "good" or "bad" in absolute terms, so in a sense calling anyone a "good person" or a "bad person" can only ever be a generalisation based on the balance of what they do.
In this case, however, if someone repeatedly does very bad things, they'd better also be doing even more very good things to make up for it, or I think it's fair to apply the "bad person" label.
You also seem to be making a terminological point about when it's ok to apply the term "good person" or "bad person", but that's a red herring. You can use those terms however you like, but it doesn't have anything to do with what I was saying.
Should we be critical of mistakes? Sure, that's how we learn, and constructive criticism helps us to improve.
This doesn't mean we can't also understand that nobody's perfect, and that while to err is human, sometimes so is to forgive. I doubt we would want to live in a world without this counter-balance.
However, intent matters. Doing something wrong by accident is still wrong, but I don't see how it is unethical if there was no understanding or ill will. On the other hand, betraying the trust of millions of people by deliberately taking actions that break earlier promises and violate their privacy over an extended period... Well, I'm sorry, but I don't see how that is an accident, and I will condemn it accordingly.
Does a hitman who kills for a thousand dollars have weaker ethics than a hitman who kills for a million dollars? Would the million-dollar-hitman deserve less jail time?
You know, in the last day I've changed my mind on this deletion thing. I have my own domain name in the form firstnamelastname.com, and with all the will in the world, Facebook can be such a timewaster. Maybe I should just put up a little contact form on my website so anyone who doesn't have my email/number can contact me and be done with it. I don't want to have to dig through a load of obscure privacy settings every time there's a tweak to the site.
Additionally, I find the Facebook CEO's view on privacy disturbing.
Previously, after buying something, if we were unhappy in anyway we'd always be able to 'vote with our cash'. It was recognised that we deserved to be compensated if our experience of a company fell short.
Modern (free-to-access) sites obviously aren't free, we pay for usage by giving attention (via eyeballs or behaviour). However, this exchange of value isn't as tangible as it once was when we had to pay money for a service.
Maybe moving to a paid-for model might actually be better for consumers / participants - because we'd be able to make more explicit demands?
At the moment we can stop using the service - but the assessment a user makes is probably quite often weighed up against this illusion of 'zero-cost'.
What can we do with a company like Facebook or Google when we're no longer happy?
We're used to the cost of a service being its monetary price, or more recently, the demands it makes on our attention. Perhaps a new type of model is being developed in which the price of a service we desire is not in the form of money or attention, but our data. And in this case the way a company uses our data is a real "cost", rather than a mutually beneficial outcome.
I think that threatening to withdraw and withdrawing payment, whether monetary or otherwise, will prove to be a significant balance on the actions of companies. If the changes are significantly detrimental, consumers will take the actions they consider necessary to address those concerns.
I suppose when we use FB - we are actually participating in a kind of factory, so perhaps the analogy is apt.
However, I think this idea presents a false dichotomy. We need other options which don't involve either remaining compliant or quitting.
While we're told we have freedom, because we can exit - we end up investing so much in a service, that quitting becomes very 'expensive' (in terms of human cost). Quitting becomes a unrealistic option for most.
I think the same can be said for Apple's POV re. the iPhone and competition. They like to say that users are free - and that if they're not happy with the way they do business (or change their terms) then they can go elsewhere.
In reality, users have spent a large amount money on their hardware - and are usually locked into 18-24 month phone contracts. The arguments are disingenuous.
I have a FB account to be able to see the occasionally linked page on FB, but the interface was too complicated to me even before all this privacy mess.
I've tried to explain to friends why, but the only response I got from them was "I've got nothing to hide". In any case, with cheap/free hosting, I can host my profile page, with information I want to give away.
Some random quote from a comment (slashdot, perhaps?):
"People fail to realise that Google's and Facebook's customers are the advertisers, and the users are in fact the product they sell."
Still not quite sure how they did that.
I don't think users necessarily realize these messages are being sent ostensibly on their behalf. In my view these large, successful companies are growing their user bases through spam.
That's when I quit.
(I don't remember giving them my password, however the link to send someone an invite is actually a link to send EVERYONE and invite, and apparently that includes the contact list they uploaded (or from my point of view, stole))
Personally I don't have my Gmail address as my contact email... but I doubt many people own their TLDs with corresponding mailboxes.
I'm cool with deleting my account - but not at the price of losing contact with many "friends".
Is there a middle ground? Or a replacement service?
Maybe we can build an app to 1) Copy basic Facebook data, 2) Delete the Facebook account, and 3) set you up on a new system that does respect privacy.
This also raises alarm bells:
If there's a version of this which is completely open source and on a plug, I'd buy that as a facebook replacement.
Which is fine, because with the new tools they're coming close to the position where an app can get so much data that it'll be possible for a competitor website to allow you to authorise it to import everything from Facebook -- friends list and all.
On that day there'll be a huge opportunity for someone to start a site offering to be what Facebook used to be: a truly private yet still social network.
A few pledges not to ever force you through hoops to try and retain your privacy, to never make your baby pictures public by default, and to never share your data, and there will be more than enough switchers to get the new place up and running.
Can't wait, tbh.
They're estimating $1B or so in revenue for 2010, that sounds like a lot of money, but that's an ARPU of about $2 or so -- most real businesses do 50 times that.
I don't begrudge them finding some way to get value out of their community, otherwise they'll be a day when they can't afford to run it, or decide to scale it down to something much smaller but much more profitable.
Any alternative offering is going to face the same problems; it's tough to monetize social traffic; I know sites that have incredible user engagements for communities in the 50k user range, but can't scratch together $800 a month to pay for the servers, never mind to pay for anybody's time to develop and maintain the system.
FB and the Advertisers are harvesting value from the herd, day after day. Brilliant (I'm not being facetious....this time).
Of course, it's just a made-up graph, and his very first sentence implies the line is really trending downward in his opinion, but I'm always intrigued when an instance of the Ultimatum Game happens in real life:
Facebook is still the best communication tool out there for sharing everything (pictures, videos, messages, etc.). If, in return for using an excellent and free service, Facebook sends out a little bit of trivial information about me then so be it. It's really not that different from AdWords.
I think that's what pisses me off about FB the most. This entire website was built on the backs of hundreds of millions of eager users. And sure, the users get some benefits (meeting old friends, finding a new job), and some downsides (affairs, posting that picture of you drunk for the boss to see). But all in all, we've all made Zuckerberg a millionaire for doing very little, in the big picture.
Out of curiosity, do you hold AdSense to the same standard? After all, a pixel and a cookie on 70% of websites by hit is being used to infer your interests, location, demographics, and purchasing history, all so ads can be better targeted at you. Why is it more shady for Facebook to do this with information you explicitly provided, under terms that Facebook disclosed, than for Google to do so with 99.9% of the web having no idea it's happening?
Sorry, I forgot: it's not evil when Google does it.
Tracking via cookies/pixels,etc is getting pretty invasive too. When google does it, it is just as bad. Look at Buzz, have we already forgotten the outrage when it came out?
I agree, and it has nothing to do with the discussion at hand: facebook does not do this, and never has.
But I also believe people are way less aware of what Google is going with the Adsense click data. They're also blinded by the smörgåsbord of goodies flowing out Mountain View. And maybe to most that's a fair trade. Google is at least giving out free email servers, gigabytes of cloud storage, navigation, docs, etc etc etc.
I left similar sounding comment on the blog above. I wonder why the article's owner removed that comment! Looks like he hasn't accepted any comments. Why enable have 'Leave a reply' if you don't want to accept any comments?
You've just arbitrarily illustrated their trend towards fewer privacy restrictions in a way that will certainly sway people to your argument but only represents your sentiments and nothing concrete about the actual situation.
While I agree with your argument, this really bugs me, particularly in dealing with the audience you've chosen to address and the false authority it might lend you to those outside of it.
I've thought of maybe doing a small redirection, in the style of Class.cpp/ClassImpl.cpp, where my FB profile just says "see my 'real' profile at myname.com," from where I can serve a static page with any information I like.
This way I could still expose whatever data I like, on my terms, and keep all the friend requests I've made.
Flipping out over some weird privacy details is ridiculous. There may be small leaks, but they don't/won't last. Patch it up. Move on. Keep talking to your one-off acquaintances.
We need to be OK with people making money. Facebook provided me (and you) $1000s of dollars in value over the years. I have not given them a dime. Facebook, gladly take 5-10% of your visual mind-share back. You earned it.
The problem is that they've decided to extract value in a way that leaves me no choice about how to pay them. I've certainly gotten plenty of utility out of Facebook, but I'm not willing to pay for it with my privacy! Frankly, I'd much sooner pay for it explicitly, in exchange for a privacy guarantee. (Although, it's debatable how much that guarantee would be worth, given Facebook's history.)