Facebook: Considered Harmful

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Yesterday Facebook announced and launched a new initiative that sees the spreading of the Facebook brand to all corners of our fair cyberland.

This is a very exciting day for them I am sure, and for a goodly number of websites, businesses and entrepreneurs. Unfortunately it is a sad day for users, and the most frightening part is that most of them have no idea how much of their privacy has been sacrificed upon the altar of profit.

Firstly, understand me

I am not against profit. I love to make money, and to quote Cory Doctorow, "I want to fill my bathtub with money and laugh and laugh and laugh".

That being said, I also like to think there is a way to do this without exploiting, misleading or preying on the people who made you a success to begin with. In my opinion this is exactly what Facebook is doing with their new initiative.

Now the crux of the situation

What bothers me most about this movement, is the fact that once again Facebook has decided for me whether or not my data should be public. When the new system went into effect All of us were automatically opted in. To get an example of how annoying this is, log into Facebook, and then go to Yelp.com.

Go ahead, I'll wait. What you find when you get there is that Facebook has given access to your data to Yelp!, without getting your permission first. I don't want Yelp!, Pandora or Microsoft Docs to have access to my Facebook data... ever.

This would be merely a nuisance if Facebook gave its users an easy way to say "Don't do that, ever" and at first glance it seems like they do:

Screen shot 2010-04-22 at 11.17.12 AM.png

Seems easy enough right? Just uncheck that box and things go back to the way they were before. Wrong. Once you deselect that option, you are graced with this modal:

Screen shot 2010-04-22 at 11.17.42 AM.png

The important part of this little diddy is the following line: Please keep in mind that if you opt out, your friends may still share public Facebook information about you to personalize their experience on these partner sites unless you block the application.

And you have to block each app individually. Right now there are only a handful, but what happens when there are 20 or 30?

But no data is being shared

Right Facebook states, pretty clearly that they don't share any data with the "partners" right?

Screen shot 2010-04-22 at 11.21.14 AM.png

Seems pretty straightforward don't you think. Of course by searching around the Help site we find a contradictory statement:

Screen shot 2010-04-22 at 11.21.45 AM.png

So which is it exactly? Do the partners have access to your Facebook data or don't they? Either way this is unacceptable behavior in my opinion.

Long story even longer, this is another step in the direction of Evil Empire for a site that was built upon the concept of privacy. I think it is high time those of us who care about our privacy to find another place to share our experiences, photos, etc with each other.

For more info on this hit up the EFF article. Looks like I should get to work finishing off the theme for ZenSocial my social network experiment site.

Facebook should now be considered harmful.