Why the change of tune, Facebook?

by Tristan Henderson

Today is “Kill your Facebook Page” day. Pundits across the blogosphere are loudly criticising the social network giant. What is going on?

Last year, Facebook, under pressure from its users, introduced a new set of principles that included all sorts of good things like equality, ownership and freedom. But these principles have been thrown out of the window as Facebook has gone “rogue”, making previously-private data public in an attempt to monetise its users’ social graphs and self-declared preferences.

What now? Will Facebook cave in to pressure once again? So far they are alternating between arrogance and silence.

Meanwhile, demand grows for an alternative. While big companies such as Google offer little comfort for privacy-aware social network users, a group of undergraduate students have raised over US$100,000 based on little more than a flashy web site with some nascent plans for a decentralised OSN. While these ideas are nothing new, hopefully they will use some of their funds to develop a system that is usable by “silver surfers” as well as holders of Computer Science PhDs.

So maybe the market will decide. Perhaps Facebook has underestimated the costs of their users’ privacy and will suffer a loss in market share and business as a result. Or perhaps their users would actually prefer more of their data to be public, and the privacy-aware competitors will fall by the wayside. Either way, these social network site builders would no doubt have benefited from a privacy value network framework to help understand the costs of privacy.

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