Facebook: Friend Or Foe?

Last week, Facebook introduced a new way to further connect with your friends. The new ‘like’ buttons are integrated into numerous, popular sites such as CNN, Mashable, and Levi’s and allow you to “tell the world the things you like, even when you’re not on Facebook (Tynan, PCWorld). While, for example, you may find friends you never knew were fond of “Barely There Blue” Slim Bootcut jeans and bond over this fact, you may also not be aware that by “liking” those jeans, Levi’s is able to gather certain data labeled as public from your Facebook profile. From Facebook’s standpoint, this is a genius move–a way to extend their influence past facebook.com. Dynan said, “Make no mistake, this is a power grab. Facebook is making a play to become the single-sign-on and social-sharing engine for every major site on the Net. Call it the FaceWeb.” But, as New York Senator Charles Schumer has begun to ask, is it right? Are the masterminds of Facebook being friends or foes to its users? Do they have our best interests in mind or are their decisions based on taking over the market? Schumer has requested that Federal Trade Commission “investigate whether social networking sites are being straight with consumers when it comes to the privacy of their information.” Additionally, he requests the development of “guidelines for the use of private information” and “all access to be opt-in.”

I’m inclined to agree with Schumer. I consider myself a fairly saavy Facebook user, but all the new options in the privacy settings are confusing. And recently, Facebook made an automatic selection of this for users on this “like” business, what they’ve called the “Instant Personalization Pilot Program.” It set the permissions to allow “select partners to instantly personalize their features with my public information when I first arrive on their websites.” I saw two wall posts from friends regarding this matter and followed these friends’ instructions to view my privacy settings and opt out of this function. Is the site that was once a bunch of college kids poking each other now out of control? Yesterday, Mashable’s top article title really said it all: Nobody Can Stop Facebook Because Nobody Understands Facebook.

For more, read this article from Christopher Heine & this one from Ryan Singel.

(Header image is a screen shot of facebook.com.)

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