Let’s be clear on one thing. The majority of users on Facebook haven’t, and won’t, really have notice much to do with the recent privacy brouhaha the service has been involved in. Even people who I have known for years online and in he normal course of events do care about privacy haven’t raised any uproar over the recent changes made – prior to today’s – by Facebook.
The majority of the uproar has been propagated by tech bloggers who were sincerely concerned over the moves that Facebook was making. The growing voice was then picked up by mainstream media even as the A-List apologists attempted to come to Facebook’s defense.
This all of course has resulted in today’s display of We’re Sorry and a whole new set of privacy settings from Facebook. There’s already been more than enough really good posts written on the details of exactly what has changed (see my round-up at the end of the post) that my adding to the noise wouldn’t serve any purpose. Instead I am more curious as to whether this will be the cure-all that Facebook needs in order to get past this mess.
I have never hidden the fact that I am not the biggest fan of Facebook especially when it comes to its constant pushing of the envelop of our control over our information on the service. I am also realistic enough to realize that Facebook is all about monetizing all that information in order for it to keep on being able to provide a free service so at some point there has to be some sort of give and take between us and Facebook.
The problem in my mind is that they have on a number of occasions stepped over the line by trying to force us into positions of sharing more information than we felt comfortable with or thought was right. It is understandable as to why they do this, and anyone who thinks that they moves weren’t calculated with several different fall back plans in place is naive. That however doesn’t make it right and today was Facebook’s acknowledgement of that – even if it was couched in PR spin-doctoring.
As much as we would like to believe that Zuckerberg and Facebook has seen the light there will be, for some time, that feeling in the back of our minds that this move was just one of their Plan B moves – regardless of Zuckerberg saying that these changes would be the last they make in this area.
Facebook has a bad track record when it comes to stepping all over our control over our information so it will be no wonder if people question these latest moves. As we have seen with Beacon and other control reduction efforts Facebook needs our information to be made as freely available as possible and they will do whatever they can to facilitate that. At what point though will Facebook reach that tipping point in size where it will once again consider going down this path again?
Obviously 400 or 500 million user accounts doesn’t make the company big enough to operate with any imperviousness but will that hold? What about when they reach 750 million or how about 1 billion, which are both realistic numbers for them to look at reaching. Will that make them big enough to not care about any backlash to moves they make?
Sure we would love to believe that Facebook has seen the error of its ways but if history about the company, and Zuckerberg, has shown us anything it is that they aren’t above pushing the envelop when they think they have enough power to do so.
Facebook announcement round-up
- Making Control Simple – Facebook
- Facebook’s New Privacy Controls Hit The Mark – Crisis Averted? – The Next Web
- Facebook’s New Privacy Settings: Here’s What Changed – GigaOM
- Zuckerberg Speaks! New Privacy Settings Coming to Facebook (But no Rollbacks) – ReadWriteWeb
Video of Mark Zuckerberg presenting the new controls – thanks to Robert Scoble