Right to Privacy

I've read a few blog posts recently about the shortcomings of privacy settings on Facebook. Some people don't like that you can't pick and choose which of your friends are allowed to write on your wall, or that you can't require approval for the comments, like here on this blog. Others don't appreciate incriminating photos of themselves being posted without their consent. There are many complaints, but I won't get into all of them. To me, this is all incredibly nit-picky considering that participation in Facebook is, after all, 100% optional.

(from Flickr user @superamit)

In fact, I'm a bit annoyed by the fact that there are so many privacy features. Does anyone remember the original thefacebook (notice the 'the' in front of Facebok)? Circa 2005? Back then you had to have a .edu email address from a school that has been approved for Facebook, and everyone from your school had full access to your profile, no questions asked.

I'm pretty sure that's exactly how Zuckerburg intended it. If I got anything out of Ben Mezrich's book The Accidental Billionaires, it's that one of the primary reasons Facebook was created was to make it easier for dorky guys like Zuckerburg to meet girls. That's the reason why you used to be able to do searches "by relationship status" and "by dorm" or "by course". With only a few clicks you could have a neat little list of all the single women in your dorm and in your courses. Pretty efficient, right?

That's all in hindsight now. The course schedule feature is completely gone. You can now restrict who can view and even search for your profile, even if they go to your school. The original intent of Facebook seems all but lost. Of course, now that Zuckerburg is a billionaire, he doesn't need Facebook to serve its original purpose.

The reason people demand all of these privacy features is because they're addicted to Facebook like a drug. If they were truly concerned about privacy, they would simply quit. But they can't - that's the power of addiction. See, if you were addicted to cigarettes and found out they were slowing killing you, the obvious thing to do would be to quit smoking them. Instead, smokers sue the tobacco companies and demand filtered or otherwise less toxic smokes. Maybe it's not a great analogy, but I think it gets my point across.


    On April 07, 2010 austin said...

    you should be able to prevent certain phrases from being posted on your facebook page.


    Interesting entry.

    On April 08, 2010 Anonymous said...

    The only thing incorrect in your post is that Zuckerman would be looking for all the single guys, not girls. He's gay.

    On April 08, 2010 Isao said...

    Is it possible that we are demanding private features because the relationships maintained in FB has become so real, that we have to treat them as we do with flesh-and-blood people? Even if you have become "sober," your network there has become a giant spaghetti ball you can't simply ignore or indulge but you need to untangle the web one by one...


    I'm with you somewhat, however, due to the difficulty people have with getting off of Facebook, saying that it's completely optional is also no longer true. You may shut your profile down, but all your profile info is still on a server somewhere.

    Also, with the college and regional networks being so broad and encompassing anyone who's ever worked or been affiliated with whatever group or town, then it's essential to have blocks up. Also, let's not even start with what the apps can do, need some sort of rejection mechanism.