Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Facebook Privacy Fear

OpengraphEvery few weeks Facebook makes changes

They have to as a path of discovery that works best with the users while helping them cope with the vast increase of subscribers along with a need to sustain cashflow so that we continue to have a free Facebook service.

When ever Facebook makes a change there is always ….

– a panic about learning how to use the new changes, which usually takes less time than writing up and posting messages complaining about the new learning

– a few soapbox cult leader types who set off viral fear generating, god fearing, messages about how our privacy being sold out followed by us been hounded by herds of corporate men in black and the world suddenly finding out that we really do like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

– re-released X File “Lone Gunman” type stories of conspiracy from Facebook, CIA, KGB, NSA, CTU and extra terrestrials all being shared bed fellows, from those who watch too much television, order in too much pizza, never get out and forget what the sun looks like.

– the rise of new “I hate Facebook” groups springing up, all generously hosted on Facebook.

The new Snake Problem

I have almost completed writing a book called “Do You Have A Snake Problem?” after a dream I had, strangely enough days before St. Patrick’s Day. I dreamed someone sneaked up to my cottage with a wicker basket of snakes and emptied them through a window I had left open. I live in Ireland, so you can instantly understand why this is already weird.

There was I with snakes all around the cottage and finding it impossible to evict them. Then a man comes to the door saying, “I understand you have a snake problem, and my service is to relieve you of this”. This happens to be the same man who sneaked up and dumped the snakes in the first place. Out of frustration and passionate desire to be relieved of the problem I said “yes please, where do i sign” kind of thing.

This is a story of so many things in our lives, the way businesses were founded, religions were founded, much of modern education founded, the way politicians get elected and even the way the St. Patrick story is told. I doubt that for thousands of years nobody thought there was anything wrong with their faiths until St. Patrick, or more likely the tellers of the St. Patrick story, told them so – in a way that they believed!

Now folks are looking at the new Facebook changes, like with every Facebook change, as a new “snake problem”, because someone, not of Facebook, told them so …. the very people that release the snakes in the first place!

The Quickie about the new Facebook “Open Graph” system

For most people on Facebook the term “Open Graph” may not be a familiar term. What is immediately visible is the previous “fan” status on pages being turned to “like” and the viral messaging generated by the soapbox fear generating snake breeding gurus telling us our privacy is exposed and supposedly what to do about it.

Facebook is free because it earns income from advertising. For advertising to stay active it has to be responsive or advertisers will go away and there will be no more free Facebook.

As a Facebook person we do not want to be pestered with advertising and comments on matters that are of no interest to us.

My interests are ancient sacred sites, labyrinths, harps, herbs, tree lore, Celtic mythology, storytellers and other things. I list this on my profile like we all do. I list these as its nice to contact and exchange with people of these interests.

I do not want to be bombarded with comments and advertising about gambling, fast cars, fast guns, fast women and many other things. The plan of Facebook’s new “Open Graph” project is to give us what we want to exchange with but not only from comments and the finding of new friends.

When we have interests we buy products, services and entertainment linked to our interests, so Facebook would like to steer suppliers of what we are interested in to us. By doing so it makes it easier for us to locate what we would like and make trades. The people doing the trade feel they are getting value from Facebook advertising so they continue this. Facebook gets its revenue, and we continue to get free Facebook plus continued contact to people, services and things that are useful to us and improve the world we would like to live.

What about “privacy”?

This subject baffles me?

Our computer is not a limb of our body. It is completely detached from us, can be switched off and we can travel miles away from it and even chose to never use it again. What we post on web sites should be regarded as open information available to all, but we do have a choice of what we post. Its its private to you, don’t post it! We are in charge of our own privacy, not webmasters.

Identity theft is a major fear though. I’ve had it done to me and it is a painful time waster to unravel.

I believe a personal web site with a server service you can trust is the best thing and use this as a medium for people to contact you through a masked contact form that gets to your real email address, and then you can reveal yourself to people one to one as you feel safe to. Then all you have to do on Facebook is provide your name and your web site as your contact medium.

For your profile page, you screen which friends you allow access to and can easily purge people you no longer wish to contact and share with. Among your Facebook friends is the superb messaging service which I trust much more than regular email. By listing a group of friends in the heading of a message you can start up your own very private debate forum. What ever is written within this does not go outside of this!

So what’s left on the “privacy” issue?

The stuff you post on your profile?

If that “stuff” on your profile is private, why is it there?

Managing your Facebook Profile

You are totally in charge of what you post on your profile and now Facebook assumes that what you post here is to be shared so you have to decide what’s public. If you just want to keep certain facts about yourself among friends, keep this bound within the very private Facebook messaging service.

In short, your privacy is your responsibility, not Facebook’s. Why post something private on Facebook and then blame Facebook for exposing it. It would be like guys walking around with their penis hanging out and women with breasts hanging out and getting annoyed at everyone for noticing. If you don’t want to expose something about yourself don’t let it hang out! ….. otherwise others will want to share it!

In “Basic Information” in your profile, only expose what you would like others to read and share, with particular attention placed on relationship status, political views and religious views

In “Contact Information” and “Education And Work” be careful only to share what you would like to share. What is the single best most personal protected way people can contact you and understand your status?

This now leaves managing the “Likes and Interests” section where you list your favourite music, books, movies, favourite activities, and a section to be free to talk and brag about yourself. It is this section that is the engine of the new Facebook “Open Graph” as they call it.

It is this section that is shared openly, not the rest about you, other than your geographic location to your nearest town !!!

Facebook “Open Graph” enhancing our lives?

By changing the old “fan” button to a new “like” button, Facebook is deciding to build as a central hub for the distribution of users choices of interests and interests that build their lives.

You’ll find that web sites that join this new Facebook engine will be directing suggestions and information customised for you that has been filtered through your information on Facebook. What needs to realised is that nobody is looking at your name, address, phone number, email address and other identity elements other than your unique Facebook identity and the personal likes you have posted on your profile. Its only your Facebook identity that is circulated, nothing else, but if you visit other web sites while logged into Facebook your browsing cache will tell websites you visit what your Facebook identity code is and it will respond to customise your browsing experience.

Some users will think this is going too far, as Facebook membership was seen just to be a way to see what family and friends are up to and exchange information, photos and links.

What I feel this will do is slowly eliminate the time wasting in our lives from the bombardment of promotions from TV, newspapers, magazines, telemarketers and online spam, the bombardment of luring to goods and services that are not part of the world we wish to live.

In future when we are approached with suggestions they may not even seem like advertising as they will be so close to our interests and personality.

Web One, was the first online world of showcase web sites, shopping web sites and catalogues of information supported by email communications. Amazon, Yahoo, Google, Ebay, CDBaby, and Barnes & Noble became leaders in this

Web Two, was and is the public social exchange, often of the many things on web sites merged with our actual daily lives. Marketing and trade largely moved into referrals, just like the very old ways of trading and business. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube became leaders in this.

Web Three is merging One and Two by revealing web pages to us in the image perceived by our likes revealed and online habits. Amazon have been doing this awhile but Facebook now takes this onto a new wider level.

Some folks are concerned that there seems to be a “battle” for internet ownership, i.e. the conspiracy thinkers, but forget this has only happened by the public taking a mass liking for what is being offered by Facebook, Google and Apple who now be looked at, misguidingly, as the competitors for Internet domination and control. We gave them their positions!

What happens if you uncheck “allow” on Facebook

Facebook provides an option for its members to uncheck “allow” to prevent their “likes” being distributed. There’s a lot of campaigning by folks who live their lives with strong defence against input and sharing themselves , to advise others uncheck “allow”. They indicate Facebook is putting identities and privacy at risk.

However, if you do uncheck “allow” I feel you will cut yourself off from a useful upcoming online experience.

I remember when automatic washing machines came along, and folks campaigned they they could never be as good as hand washing, when dishwashers came along and seemed to be a total waste of money and pure snobbery, and when internet spread, how businesses dismissed it as a “just a place for kids to play games on” and not a serious medium for business marketing and customer service.

I think Facebook “Open Graph” could be one of those things we think we do not want, but once used wonder why we did not bother before. If Facebook do not pull of this idea, someone will soon.

I do not think my own web site or other showcase business brochure type web sites will have great effect by integrating Facebook Open Graph, but web sites that catalogue in some way such as music, video, ticket selling, house selling, car selling, hardware, botanical, tourism review sites and so forth, will find tremendous benefit from linking to Facebook Open Graph, and their web site visitors will be glad they have too.

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