Monday, May 17, 2010

VERITAS: FUMBLE - FACEBOOK VERY PUBLICLY FUMBLES THE PRIVACY ISSUE

This week's perspective from Com.motion:

With every new feature or platform adjustment, the howls of Facebook users and privacy activists are heard loud and clear - every single time, without fail. The cries of late, following Facebooks F8 Conference on April 21st, are the loudest yet. From a user perspective, some of us recognize that Facebook is a free service and that, as a result, users have less of a say in how it works and should be cautious in how much information we share. Others are either unaware of the implications of such personal information sharing, or are unsure of how to make the appropriate adjustments to their profile. Bottom line - Facebook has not done well by any of those user groups. Worse yet, they've been thoroughly mediocre explaining themselves to the public. Mark Zuckerberg himself, a billionaire at the age of 26, hasn't yet developed an ability to describe his product and assure his audience like, say, Steve Jobs or Bill Gates have. The New York Times hosted a Q&A session between a Vice President at Facebook and the public - unfortunately, it did very little to calm the privacy concerns and was not received as being particularly sincere. Since that time, four United States Senators have issued letters, scores of blog posts have been written, and influencers like Leo Laporte have closed their account. Newsweek is reporting that despite the storm now, there's more to come in October when Aaron Sorkin's movie, The Social Network, is released telling the storied history of Facebook and its founders (it doesn't look to be a sympathetic version for Zuckerberg). Unfortunately, this is a complicated issue from Facebook's perspective. Personal information and users contributing content (photos, videos, etc...) is what drives revenue, in the end. Facebook has tried to provide a huge menu of ways that users can itemize and control exactly what is and what isn't publicly available - unfortunately, their privacy statement has become larger than the American Constitution (minus Amendments) and a maze for users to understand. As Facebook slowly tries to take hold of this crisis, they will need to rethink their approach to the public and take a better approach to the ongoing dialog that is currently boiling over. All eyes are on them and these concerns aren't going away.


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