Zuckerberg, We Have a Problem


Oh dear, Facebook. We need to talk. Because, as my mother would say, I take massive issue with what you’ve been up to.

There’s been so much going on lately with Facebook that it’s both impossible to keep up and impossible to miss. And I’ve tried to stay out of it because there’s simply so much coverage that it’s hard to distinguish one Facebook post from the next, but I do think there are a number of important lessons here for brands who don’t want to become the next Facebook. It serves a purpose to outline some of the ways Facebook is doing it wrong so that you don’t have to.

First off, though we’re talking about Facebook and privacy – no one is sitting in a corner crying over the sanctity and safety of their Facebook photos. Paul Carr tickled himself over at TechCrunch this weekend writing Facebook Breached My Privacy, and Other Things That Whiny, Entitled Dipshits Say. And while the post was amusing in that “look at me, I’m British and better than you” kind of way, there wasn’t a valid point anywhere to be found.

I’m sorry, but this isn’t about drunk party photos or whiny people. It’s about a serious bait and switch.

Here’s where Facebook got itself into a bit of trouble, in my eyes.

They’re trying to force our hand.

Facebook was never a Twitter. You enter your 140 characters of genius and you know that it’s being shared with the world – anyone can follow you, the search engines are indexing it, it’s out there. Facebook was the anti-Twitter. It was for your “real life” and where you went to connect with real friends. You had total privacy and you had to opt people into your information. That was the beauty of it.

Then, Facebook decided to ‘connect you to everything you care about’ and turned all of your private information and interests into public Wiki pages. You grew up in Chicago? Great. There’s a Wiki page for that. You played high school soccer. Awesome. Here’s a Wiki page. You support gay marriage? Cool – go to your Wiki page. And if you decide, hey, I’d actually like to keep my thoughts on gay marriage to just the people in my network, Facebook takes that information away from you. You don’t get to have it in your profile at all. It’s just wiped out.  I’m not even going to touch on how stripping brand names out of profiles and creating unauthorized pages is total brandjacking BS and creates an ORM problem.

To Facebook, this may serve a purpose, but if you’re a user it feels incredibly invasive. Your profile is your sacred space. You created it to represent who you are and Facebook just took an eraser to it.

There’s been lots of coverage about Facebook deleting information out of your profile. I like the write up by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. You should also read Tamar Weinberg’s Open Letter To Facebook which provides a stellar background on everything.

They instituted complicated, multi-step opt outs.

Okay, so Facebook is creeping you out. You decide to go to Pandora to go play some tunes and be mellow. When you arrive, you’re informed that Pandora is using Facebook to personalize your experience and that they’re now partners (along with Yelp and Docs). I…uh…what do you mean ‘personalize my experience’? You’re not even on Facebook and you definitely didn’t give anyone permission to do this.

Pandora gives you three options:

  • Learn more
  • Just say no
  • Close the message (which is basically saying yes)

Okay, you say, I’m not comfortable with that. I think I’ll just say no and opt out. Which sounds good, except, are you really opting out? Clicking the Learn More link explains [emphasis mine]:

You can easily opt out of experiencing this on these sites by visiting your Privacy Settings or clicking “No Thanks” on the blue Facebook notification on the top of partner sites. If you opt out, your public Facebook information can still be shared by your friends to these partner sites unless you block the application.

So just because I have slutty less discerning friends, if they opt in, they’ll be sharing my public information to these partners anyway? Wait – what kind of ‘public’ information can my friends share about me? Apparently there’s a new box to tell you.

Who even knew that existed? Likely, no one. Because to now change your Facebook privacy settings you have to navigate through 50 settings and 170 options. It seemed the only things my friends COULDN’T share about me by default were my relationship details. I’m not sure what’s scarier – how much information other people can tell other Web sites about me or that there’s even a box to govern this. Giving me a box to dictate every portion of my online life is the same as giving me no control at all. because it becomes too complicated to use.

They made things too complicated to recognize.

Yes, to change your Facebook privacy settings you have to sift through 50 settings and nearly 200 different options. It is SIX TIMES longer than the policy Facebook started out with. That’s like going to a search conference and looking for the lone person NOT carrying an BB or an iPhone. You’re likely to just give up and go cry in a corner.

As I’ve said before in regards to Google, complexity needs to be optional. Go as crazy as you want, just make it easy for people to get out if that’s not what they want. A five year old needs to be able to land on your site or pick up your product and “just know” what to do.

Facebook has now made its Web site, its partners and its privacy policy so complicated that I’d challenge Mark Zuckerberg to properly set his privacy settings and tell me who has access to which information. I don’t think he could. And if he can’t, how is anyone else supposed to be confident in what they’re sharing?

If you haven’t seen The New York Times and Matt McKeon’s infographics on Facebook’s privacy evolution, you should check them out. The NYT’s graphic is especially scary.

They demand more transparency while becoming less

One of the most ironic things of this whole debacle is that while Facebook pushes users to become more open and to share, they’re becoming less so. Yesterday, the big dogs at Facebook met in a secret, closed door meeting to address and talk over concerns. The result of that meeting? New privacy controls in case your account gets hacked.


And I do think that last part is the most damaging. With all the non-statements they’re making to the media, they still haven’t told anyone why the current system is good for users. They haven’t given us a real reason why we should welcome these changes and give up a bit of our privacy. And if they were able to do that, if they could create a compelling benefit, people are loyal enough to Facebook that they may have hopped in board. But Facebook has lost its voice.

What Facebook doesn’t seem to get is that in order for users to share THEIR information and be transparent, you need to reciprocate that. Otherwise, they feel vulnerable. Your job, as a brand, is to make us not feel that way. Your job is to make us trust you like the ‘dumb f*cks’ we are. Otherwise, we’ll crash your advertising party.

Facebook’s confusing users, creating headaches for brands and targeting everyone, while listening to no one. It’s been a pretty impressive run lately to break as many user experience tenants as possible.

My advice to you: Don’t be Facebook. Run like hell from Facebook.

Update: After publishing I stumbled across Robert Scoble’s letter to Mark Zuckerberg, which offers some advice on how Zuckerberg could save Facebook.  Smart read.

Your Comments

  • Kyle Wegner

    I’m going to go ahead and post a tweet I sent yesterday that I think relates to this pretty well:

    “I really don’t have a hard time imagining Zuckerberg yelling ‘Where’s your privacy now, bitches’ and throwing handfuls of money in the air.”

    The man does not give a darn about what those of us who are clued in care. Facebook has 400-500 million users. If 2 million tech/privacy-savvy people quit, who cares? There is no loss to him. The only way any of this matters is if these privacy concerns became mainstream, which they haven’t yet.

    • Lisa Barone

      Perhaps they haven’t, but with the EU watching them and potential lawsuits (which I think is a pretty safe bet at this point) on their way, it’s going to get mainstream attention. You also have to consider that the two million users they’re losing are the same two million uses that get other people using Facebook. They’re the influencers and the loud mouths.

      As for the throwing money in the air bit, kind of reminds me of:



  • Joe Hage

    Lisa, what a great writeup. I’ve given up trying to understand. I just assume anything I do online is trackable by anyone who has a whit of interest in “what Joe Hage does online.”

    • Lisa Barone

      which is a pretty safe way to go about things, I’d say. The thing is, that’s not how Facebook originally presented itself. It changed the rules, didn’t tell anyone, and is now trying to pretend it didn’t. That’s a bait and switch.

  • Paige Worthy

    To the shock of many of my friends, I deactivated my Facebook account last week. I have never looked back.

    I am loving you right now for this post. Thank you.

    • Susan Esparza

      Deactivated or deleted? They are different things: http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=842

      Nice write up, Lisa. I swear, I’ve logged into Facebook more times in the last three months than I did in the three years before. And it’s all just to check privacy settings (and look at baby pictures.)

      • Paige Worthy

        Deactivated. Purposely.
        Because honestly, I don’t really care what information they have of mine at this point.
        If my employer wants to fire me for something I’ve said or the government wants to lock me up for being angry at their policies, they’ll find a way to do it regardless.
        I write a public blog that’s incredibly personal, and I don’t care who reads it. I’ve been burned before, but I’m a product of this oversharing generation.

        I just don’t want to add fuel to the fire, and I don’t need the time suck, and now seemed like as good a time as any NOT to be there.

        But losing five years of information, interaction and networking — I’ve had an account since it launched at my college in 2004 — seemed pretty devastating to me.
        So. Deactivated.

    • Lisa Barone

      Thanks. And yeah, I’d make sure it’s really gone if that’s what your intention is.

      • Eric Johnson

        Or in some cases, don’t put anything else on there. Well said Lisa. I wonder if Zuckerman will actually give two f***s when the members go from 300 million to 3 million?

  • Joseph Ruiz

    Have you signed off of Facebook?

  • David Zemens

    I agree with absolutely everything that you have written Lisa. Facebook and their privacy policies (and constant changes) are useless.

    That being said, I assume that everything I do on Facebook will ultimately be made public to the world and beyond. Maybe that’s not the right way to approach this, but it’s the method I have chosen.

    I still think there’s some value in having my Facebook account and enjoy using it. But I know that my dirty little secrets will not be kept safe by Zuckerberg et al.

  • Dawn Wentzell

    As internet marketers, I think we’re all pretty informed about our privacy and what info we’re putting out to the intertubes.

    My real issue in all of these privacy changes is that “normal people” have no idea this is even going on. They don’t read Techcrunch to stay up to date on the latest privacy changes, they likely don’t actually read the prompts when asked to choose their settings, and they have no clue who now has access to pics of their 3yo.

    • Bradley Gauthier

      Nicely said Dawn, I agree 100%

    • Lisa Barone

      Agreed. And as savvy as I like to think I am, I honestly had no idea that even if I opted out my friends were able to share a whole host of information about me. That’s scary. Facebook needs to dumb down that Constitution-sized privacy policy and make it actually readable. And if they CAN’T do that, then you have to wonder why.

      • Alysson

        I happened upon those “Control what your friends can share” settings by chance. Tin foil hat wearing cynic that I am, I spent 45 minutes to an hour clicking on every single link available in Facebook’s “Account Settings” area so I could turn off everything I could possibly turn off.

        99.9% of Facebook users will never do that. Facebook uses that reality to hedge their bet against the backlash coming from our relatively small circle of more informed users. And therein lies the problem.

      • Dawn Wentzell

        Yeah, I didn’t realize that part either. Fortunately, my profile is empty so there’s not much they *can* share about me.

        • Alysson

          It’s not even so much what they share, but that they share it without asking permission and make it SOOOO difficult to prevent them from using that information how ever & with whomever they choose. If Facebook is going to share the information in my Facebook profile with third party sources, I should have to give them explicit permission to do so.

          Like others have said, I don’t have anything private on Facebook in the first place, so it’s not that I’m concerned about something “getting out”. I’m of the mindset that anything that exists about me online is inevitably going to be used by someone, somewhere for reasons other than I may have originally intended or anticipated.

          The problem is that Facebook built a relationship with users based in large part on an ability to control what information was private and what information was public. People, right or wrong, relied on having that control over what profile information was available to everyone. It was a promise of sorts made by Facebook to it’s users. Facebook broke that promise. And like any broken promise, it’s led to anger and disappointment.

          • Brian Ratzker

            I agree Alysson, I wouldn’t post anything on Facebook that I wouldn’t to be public. Although, there are times when people post things and I think “why would you ever post that much information on Facebook”. And the sad truth is that most people don’t know better or I guess don’t care.

            Facebook needs to stop trying so hard to become Twitter and just kick ass with being what they are, a private social network, and build upon that. Sell services such as hosting space and other social luxuries if an increase in revenue is really what they are looking for.

  • Scott

    I hardly go to Facebook anymore, but the other day when I did I experienced a strange popup that was literally “Forcing” me to share it with friends, it had a bunch of check boxes. I tried unchecking them all but that didn’t work, and it would even allow me to close the popup so I restarted the browser and haven’t been back since.

    I would certainly love to hear who’s making these decisions because if I had that experience from my one visit in 30 days then I can’t even imagine what the regular users are going through.

    Facebookers, go get a blog and spend your time on something you can own and let your friends come to you.

  • Judy Cook

    Well done! Agreed – it’s too complicated for most to opt out of sharing. And, it’s insulting to think we’d have to.

  • Joe Hall

    Facebook was the anti-Twitter. It was for your “real life” and where you went to connect with real friends.

    Why not just have your real life, you know, offline? I mean why do we need a social network to connect with our real friends?

    I agree that they are doing a bait and switch, they are brand jacking, and ultimately exploiting their user’s content for their own growth. But, quite honestly, who cares? Isn’t that what we all expected?

    People are beginning to develop weird relationships with corporations. People used to always have a guarded suspicion about large corporate entities. Now we trust them to the point that we think they will never turn on us, and in the end when they finally do, we are shocked! The internet is making our relationships with brands to intimate. We need to remember they don’t care about us.

    • Michelle

      +1 I second this emotion – in it’s entirety! I have always operated online with the expectation that any data I give to a 3rd party private corporation could be made public, hacked, or otherwise end up in places I never intended it be. (explains my mostly empty FB acct).

      I do think that what Facebook has done is wrong, sneaky and underhanded – but like Joe, I’m not a bit surprised. FB is ultimately here to make money, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Google, it’s that owning the data and the eyeballs is best way to do it.

  • Kieran Hawe

    Actually Carr got it mostly right.

    You know what? If you dont like Facebook’s privacy settings or anything else they do…DONT USE IT. No one is forcing you to have a Facebook account, share how much you love bacon or post that awesome photo of your cat. At any point you can delete your account. What was that? You cant live without making witty comments on your friends posts and seeing pics of your ex-girlfriend? Too f’ing bad – play by their rules or go somewhere else.

    • Lisa Barone

      Maybe I could decide if I wanted to play by the rules if I knew what their rules where. You’re oversimplifying it to a dangerous degree. I don’t have to use Facebook. I don’t have to use Twitter. That’s not the point. The point is you need to be clear about your rules, your agreements and what you’re doing with information so that people CAN make a choice. That’s the problem.

      • omzen

        Absolutely fantastic smackdown Lisa!

        It’s a catch 22 really.

        Facebook obviously wants to be “the Internet” by deceitfully leveraging UGC and then there are marketers who despite understanding the arm twisting techniques are reluctant to let go a huge distribution channel in which they have already invested a lot of time in.

        Just found this Facebook protest event link on Kim Krause Berg’s status – http://facebookprotest.com/ which I think is useful to send out a strong signal to FB that they need to stop patience testing of their users :P


  • Joe

    You guys are all just really a bunch of idiots – so what if facebook has your privacy? What were you expecting when you signed up and gave everything away? In stead of bitching and complaining like a bunch of retards, come up with a solution or shut down the internet and go lie on a beach some place far away.

    • Kyle Wegner

      Bad troll is bad.

      But to respond to the “What were you expecting when you signed up and gave everything away?” question…I was expecting what they told me, which was that what I posted on Facebook was private. Originally nothing on Facebook was indexed by Google, so I controlled every aspect of who saw my Facebook self. Now everything has changed, so everything I posted with the intention of it being private and only available to my defined network is out the window.

      I’d love to shut down the internet and go lie on a beach somewhere far away, but one of my friends will inevitably find a way to share MY Facebook information by forgetting to set their privacy settings one way or another.

    • Alysson

      Wow. What a cogent argument. You’ve really brought something constructive to the conversation there, AnonyJoe.

      We’re not in a position to “come up with a solution”. We don’t work for Facebook. We have taken the time to voice our concerns over Facebook’s blatant disregard for the privacy of its users. Now we must wait to see if those responsible for this debacle to “come up with a solution” that addresses the issues being brought to light through posts like this one.

    • Lisa Barone

      Thank you for that valuable contribution to this community, anonymous Joe.

  • Vingold

    We’ve come quite a long way since Doc Searl first wrote this in 2007:

    “The big challenge for Facebook, as it has been for AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple and everybody else who ever ran a walled garden, is to make their “platform” something that sits on the Net and the Web, not something that substitutes for it.”

    Now, Facebook “sits” on nearly every mainstream site I visit (Pandora, WaPo, etc.).

    Facebook’s value proposition is turning our (sometimes private) interests into targeted advertising for their clients. The more we share, the more they can leverage and the more they can charge. To combat this, we just need to share less (or share erroneous stuff so their advertisers waste money trying to reach us). But then that defeats the purpose of Facebook in the first place.

    Facebook is just “the place” right now. Like AOL, MySpace, Yahoo and others before it – most of us go there because it is where most of us are. When the masses go someplace else – the rest will follow.

  • Marshall

    I’ve not deleted my Facebook account, but have thought long and hard about it.
    The fact is, I haven’t really participated in Facebook for quite some time other than collecting friends that ask for friend requests, like collecting seashells.

    It is interesting to watch what Facebook and Zuck do with all the privacy bru-ha-ha going on. I’m sure this is delaying the launch of the movie too- you know adding scenes about current news.

    At any rate – Facebook employees aren’t marching out the doors over this (yet) and to an earlier point in the comments until the mainstream starts leaving (say 100MM+) I don’t think they care (yet).

  • Tony Verre


    I think you’re right on w/ the post message and themes. However, the cynic in me is going to creep out here: All of this means nothing to Facebook and their user-base.

    Here’s why:

    People are heavily invested, so much so they can’t just pull out. Facebook has it’s own gravity and meta-reality now. It’s a meta-life now. It would be the same as someone making you walk away from your life.
    The Facebook Demographic has exploded way beyond the “tweens” and “20/30 somethings”. Grandparents are engaging in the platform, for God’s sake. Once that happens, it’s become a superfluous social phenomenon.
    The majority of the fight and revolt is being launched for tech folks like ourselves. We’re asking people to care, when they just don’t. Even if “how to delete facebook account” is #9 on GOOG’s hot trends, it’s equivalent to a drop in the bucket for Facebook.
    Ad Platform concerns aren’t of any concern. That system is shit to begin with. Ultra-targeted down to shoe color preference isn’t all that useful. Why? No one clicks on those ads anyway. The CTR on those ads is abysmal; better to just set your money on fire than piss it away on the Facebook ad system.

    Even breaking so many user-experience, I can’t imagine they’re really worried. Losing 10 – 15% of usership might hurt for a couple of months, but honestly, people are WAY too lazy to jump through all the hoops to fry the account. This is just a guess, but I’d think that for every 1 person that hits the ESC button on their account, there are 3 that just joined.

    • Lisa Barone

      They may not care from a user perspective, but they’re going to start caring when the EU continues to lodge complaints and they find themselves constantly being dragged into court.

  • Rafael Marquez

    I heard a rumor, yes it’s a rumor, that governments are using Facebook data to weed out dissenters. Apparently, members of Iranian opposition groups have been arrested or otherwise silenced based on data gathered from Facebook. Have you heard anything about that?

  • Alysson

    Facebook isn’t standing up to defend these new “features”, making it clear that the changes make the Facebook experience better for users – and specifically HOW that is being accomplished.

    As you point out, their silence leaves the door wide open for the skeptical and suspicious alike to assume there is less than benevolent intent behind these changes, at best…and blatantly malicious intent, at worst. Facebook better stand up soon. If they don’t, the only coverage of these recent blunders will come from those who are already reasonably suspicious and will use Facebook’s silence as evidence that they’re up to no good. A catastrophic ORM failure. Arrogance has its price.

  • Suzanne Vara


    So well said here as it is sure opt out of instant privacy, delete all of your settings of where you went to school, interests, etc and in turn you are pretty much telling everyone nothing and all your friends that you do not want to be a part of anything.

    I love the part of the challenge:
    “Facebook has now made its Web site, its partners and its privacy policy so complicated that I’d challenge Mark Zuckerberg to properly set his privacy settings and tell me who has access to which information. I don’t think he could. And if he can’t, how is anyone else supposed to be confident in what they’re sharing?

    You hit it right there as do they even know how much they are sharing for themselves? No they do not. It is probably on of the most hacked sites and the premise for what it was started on and for is completely gone. It is not about sharing and finding friends, no it is about how much can we expose about you and anything you put on your wall. Now, if you do not want the world to know about it then do not put it up there which again goes against what the site was created for. I just have to wonder what will happen when a predator gets in and there are issues – will Dateline come in and save the day? Not to be poking fun at all but at the same time the exposure is pretty much opening the door here for this to go real bad real fast.

    Sure we can all disable our profile or even delete it but it never goes away so we are I guess slaves to what they are doing as they are not listening anyway. Guess that is how business is done over there.

  • Julie Roads

    Just felt the urge to tell you how fantastic you are. So good – this article. The meat of it, the writing, the everything.

    Now just tell me why I’m so reluctant to delete my damn Facebook account. Because I still get traffic from it, because I’m still connecting there in a good way…or because NOTHING HORRIBLE has happened to me YET as a result of all this mishigas. Oy.

    • Lisa Barone

      Thanks, appreciate that.

      It’s probably because nothing horrible has happened to you yet, so you still find value. Don’t worry, many of us are right there with you. :)

  • Marta Turek

    This is a fantastic post. I try to keep my Facebook privacy at the highest level possible and am shocked at how frequently I need to update privacy settings because the default is always bloody ‘Everyone’.

    I think it is up to us, those in the online industry, who keep up to speed on these types of things to share it with our friends, both offline and on Facebook. Most people don’t have a clue about these types of things and it is only by sharing these views beyond the online marketing sphere that we can hope for a mainstream backlash against these privacy concerns.

    • Lisa Barone

      I try to keep my Facebook privacy at the highest level possible and am shocked at how frequently I need to update privacy settings because the default is always bloody ‘Everyone

      I’m very much the same way. I keep setting the filters higher and higher, assuming I’m safe, and then out comes something else that negates everything I had already set. I was really surprised with how open my profile was, regardless of how much I had already tried to nail it down.

      • Morgan Siem

        Same here. And it’s getting tiresome to reset them every few days. I do wonder, though, if the excessive amount of time it takes me to update the settings isn’t also in part due to the complexity of my life and circles of friends. Facebook’s settings are certainly too complicated. Add on to that the fact that I’m trying to group everyone in my life according to Facebook privacy levels and then determine where people overlap. People don’t fit neatly into All Access or Severely Limited Access.

  • Todd Mintz

    I think Paul Carr nailed it in his post…personal responsibility trumps all. I do agree that the new privacy features are unnecessarily complex and hopefully they will be simplified. But truthfully, I’d be all in favor of tearing down the walls because there are so many holes in them anyway that any notion of privacy on Facebook is mostly illusory.

  • Dan

    You know its funny, there’s all this talk about a lack of privacy on Facebook, and how Marc Zuckerberg is 100% against privacy and wants to use a Twitter like model, but if you search for him on Facebook you can’t see his profile. You used to get to his profile with a big picture of him smiling. Now you can’t. The high king of openness with his disdain for privacy seems to have increased the privacy for his own profile! Kind of hypocritical if you ask me.

  • Kimmo Linkama

    Thanks a million for your eye-opener post. My wife and I both run our solopreneur businesses and this post, not to mention the links you provide, got me seriously going over our plans to use FB as an additional social platform.

    From a more personal perspective, it’s not generally considered fair play to change the rules in the middle of the game, which now is the main concern of people running their personal pages.

  • Amanda

    I had a Facebook proflie. For about 6 months. Then I noticed that, suspiciously, my ‘advertising only’ Facebook account (connected to another entirely separate email address) recommended some of my real friends as people “I may know”.

    So I deactivated my account.

    I continued to receive messages and friend requests despite my deactivation, so Facebook forced me to reactivate my account just so I could opt out of emails when I redeactivated.

    Still another advertising account (this one for my affiliate campaigns, which is autoforwarded to the same root gmail account my personal facebook used to be connected to) was recommended people I know IRL to ‘friend’. These profiles have nothing- no photograph, not my real name, not my real location- absolutely NOTHING that would indicate that they are me; so I am left to surmise that they must be passing these recommendations on either via IP address, email tracking, or something similar.

    In any event, it was enough to prompt me to look up how to DELETE a facebook profile… which, ironically, has formed it’s own Facebook Community Page.

    No friend suggestions on unrelated advertising-based Facebook accounts since.

  • Ironshef

    Damn, yer writin’ is perty.

    I don’t always agree with your point of view, Lisa, but I definitely appreciate the way you get it across.

    While I’m incensed over the way that facebook continues to handle this nightmare, I’m not terribly concerned about my ability to manage privacy through the system they’ve built. Sure, they could have laid things out more clearly and made better efforts to explain themselves and notify their users, but it still works.

    I just hired someone way smarter than me to interpret the new privacy constitution and then modify the options.

    A few other commenters have mentioned Diaspora. That sounds pretty rad and I’ll encourage the friends with whom I currently connect on facebook to give it a try. For the time being, though, I still have meaningful connections on facebook and the value outweighs the extra work they are making me do.

    I should probably send them a bill, though.

  • Jason

    Julie guided me here. (props) Okay, so I play stupid, useless games by Zynga on fb. Rumor has it fb will be banishing them soon. Other than that, I use fb to generate a little extra traffic for my business… oh, and make snarky comments on the posts other ppl make on their wall. So, I have nothing on fb that is not either on my website, blog, or otherwise already public. However, if I did have privacy concerns, I would have no one to blame but myself for putting it “out there” on the internet. I think we ALL should be aware of THAT risk by now? As for fb and their target marketing, I will NEVER click on those pics of half-naked women they post in the margins for “discreet dating”. Now post some profiles for that in the margins and I might consider it… ;-)

  • Todd Herman | The Peak Athlete

    Woah! I had no idea people had access to share MY information based on their participation in other apps or websites.

    I’m really hoping those young lads at NYU that are building the anti-facebook application Diaspora ( http://mashable.com/2010/05/13/diaspora/ ) – get it done fast.

    Outside of the fact Facebook has done a massive bait and switch. Zuckerberg is a criminal. He literally stole the intellectual capital of someone else.

    Thanks for this post!

  • Chris Davies

    The one area I think is going to bite FB in the ass is the advertising. I’ve had several calls from clients rethinking the shift of paid budget to Facebook. The informed geeks might be a minority, but we get a lot of say about ad spend.

  • Angelique

    A few of my clients asked me to write a blog post about protecting their privacy on Facebook. For all of the reasons you describe above, this is turning into a big project! And yet as I am doing it, I feel like I am wasting at least some of my time, because in a few months the screenshots I am making will be outdated and there will be new choices to make.

    To make things worse, even I can’t tell rumour from fact. I recently talked to an application programmer who said that there is “no possible way to keep your information from being shared” by people like him if you are a fan of a Page that uses his application, but he didn’t seem to be at all clear about what kind of information was getting to him. It sounded like anonymous demographic info to me, the kind any Page owner can get, e.g., how many girls and how many boys.

  • Jong

    I like the insight about transparency and reciprocation, particularly around sharing. Facebook wants its users to share more, and yet the only sharing that Facebook seems to openly be interested in is sharing its users personal information to anyone willing to pay for it.

    Like Lisa said, it is better to find a place where you can own and control your information. There is a site called Whsper (www.whsper.com), which is in beta at the moment, that allows you to compartmentalize your close personal relationships and share with them directly & privately. Let’s face it… we do have different social identities (although Zuckerberg seems to disagree) and we share different things with different people. Whsper lets you manage all of that. And the best thing is that you OWN your data… check out their privacy policy.

    Could this site be the Facebook killer? Who knows? But will I be deactivating my Facebook account & giving Whsper a try? Absolutely!

  • Liesel

    I don’t think this will be limited to the informed geeks. Moms (a valuable and active demo on Facebook) will freak out the first time they realize something about them or their families is out there for the world to see. The bait-and-switch is exactly right. The deal was that no one could see your stuff unless you explicitly gave them permission. That still exists, but it’s starting to erode in ways that are difficult to grasp. What’s public? What’s not? How can I tell? Confusion will lead to misunderstanding and fear which will lead to many “regular” folks running from the site when maybe they wouldn’t if they understood exactly what was and was not being shared (i.e. it’s ok to link to my college’s website, but not ok for someone else to see pics of my kids). At the very least Facebook needs to radically simplify their privacy controls if they don’t want a knee-jerk reaction from users.

    • Lisa Barone

      Totally and completely agree. The only thing I don’t agree with is that users still have to give permission for people to see information about them. As the wiki pages and default opt-ins show, I think there’s more information being shared than many users realize.

      • Chris

        I’ve noticed that if people have added an interest (e.g. John Mayer) then that artist’s info automatically shows up in the news feed as if one had been friended. I wonder if those connections are sharing their friend’s data to Yelp/Docs/Pandora etc.

  • Maranda GIbson

    The thing I hate the most about these Facebook privacy changes is that they have made it so incredibly hard to change your privacy settings — and I’m still not even sure I have them set right. I joined Facebook when it was still pretty young and the downward spiral Facebook has taken in the last years is astounding.

    • Lisa Barone

      I agree. It really is a completely different site than it used to be. And I still don’t know what people can and cannot see about me and what’s being shared.

  • Morgan Siem

    Great post, Lisa. Of all the voices out there in protest, I think yours is likely to be heard. Mark – please hear her. Thanks for sharing the NYT graphic. That was well put. And to agree with you, I find it too complicated to keep changing the 1089098 privacy settings every day, so I just keep deleting stuff from the account, which is unfortunate b/c I liked sharing it with some people. I see that someone else mentioned Diaspora in a comment. That will be interesting to watch. Thanks for the post.

    • Lisa Barone

      Thanks. I’m not sure my voice will be heard above the noise, but maybe someone’s will. Agree with you that Diaspora will be interesting to watch. I was surprised to see so many people mention it here in the comments.

  • Scott B

    Great post and comments. Facebook intentionally makes it verrrry difficult to change your privacy settings reasonably, so even if “normal” people start, they are unlikely to finish the job. Sort of like when Continental Airlines sent me a “TripNotes” email about my upcoming trip, and had a link to “learn more about our checked baggage policy”. The page I was sent to had no information about how much they charge to check a bag!.

    Jjust one tiny thing: you write, “complexity needs to optional.”, forgot the “be”.

    Now follow me on Twitter!

  • Rob @ ReputationDefender

    Nice post Lisa. I completely agree with you. I hate how Facebook tries to dictate its own interpretation of privacy (open and indexable) rather than allowing users to make their own decision.

    It’s gotten to the point where having too many Facebook friends is actually risky for your reputation. Even if you set your profile so that you might not be sharing content, if a friend’s profile is open, you might still get nailed. A few months back, I scaled my Facebook friends from several hundred to around 50. It’s actually made the site much more manageable, and I would recommend doing the same if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

    The thing that bothered me the most about Facebook’s privacy changes, however, was the sneaky way that they forced you to make your interests public or have them wiped from your profile. I opted for the latter out of pure spite.

    One question: We’ve heard that tech hotshots like Peter Rojas and Jason Calacanis are leaving Facebook, but what about average users? Do you think enough of the more than 400M people on Facebook will jump ship to force Facebook’s hand?

  • finn @ golden-tech

    I think my favorite part of this post and its ~ 70 posts is that “MySpace” is only mentioned one other time. And it wasn’t because people said there were gonna use it more.

    I hope Zukerberg is recognizing the pattern. His creation is soon to be MySpaced the hell out of mainstream.

    And I hope Sorkin’s rethinking the script.

    I love this post. That is all.

  • finn @ golden-tech

    “part of this post and its ~ 70 posts”

    2nd “posts” = “comments.” Sorry, again.

  • Brett Smiley


    Great post. Ditto on everyone’s concerns about privacy, the difficult, confusing, invasive experience, and Zuckerberg’s arrogance (don’t know the guy, but he comes off that way).

    My concern is this, and anyone with thoughts on the subject please jump in — as a freelance writer, it seems like a necessity to remain active on FB to share links and promote. Am I overestimating the importance of sharing links via Facebook? If not to share links, I have no use for Facebook.

  • John Mack

    Hey, if the banks and BP can get away with it, why not Facebook?

    I recognized a while ago what Facebook was up to. So I falsified data, waited a while, and then deleted my account – yes, deleted, not going back in for the full 14 days even though often being redirected to Facebook by some of their “partners” in piracy (of member data). Since then Facebook has made it harder to understand how to actually delete your account. Even back then, I had to Google to find out how to delete.

    The more I understood about Facebook the more I began to believe the accusation that Zuckerberg stole the software from a classmate at Harvard.

    That said, Facebook will continue to make multi-millions around the world happy. And I say enjoy!

  • JB

    No idea where you get the time to write this stuff, but this was the best story I read on the entire subject, and yesterday (see my twitter handle, @jonbacon) I was reading up on this all over the place. Great review.

  • Stephanie

    Lisa… You’ve hit the nail on the head with the bait and switch statement. That is where all of the “your privacy is your own responsibility” comments are getting lost. In general, everything you do online is public and you shouldn’t put it up if you don’t want your grandmother to see. The arguement that you only have yourself to blame for putting it out there in the first place works just fine for Twitter. But that’s not how Facebook started. I’ve been on Facebook since it was limited to a handful of colleges and was very strictly private. I couldn’t even see that my best friend from high school was on Facebook because we went to different colleges. Facebook was started on a very private platform. Now all of the sudden everything is public. The default is to share with everyone and now I have to go back and clean up a mess that I did not make. Hence the bait and switch. If I post an embarrassing photo of myself this weekend and Monday morning my boss sees it, there is no one to blame but myself. But if a photo of me or some comment I made years ago, which was originally posted under the very private, privacy policy is now available for everyone to see, that’s not because I was being irresponsible. That’s because the rug was pulled out from underneath me. That’s the real root of the issue here. Zuckerman set up a business model years ago and now that its caught on and ballooned into an internet phenomenon, he’s changing the rules to get him what he wants. You can’t change the rules in the middle of the game. This is not what I signed on for.

  • Angela

    Great article!! All of this negative publicity is just that much more incentive for the next person to come along and do it bigger and, more importantly, better. I’m curious to see how that unfolds. And in the meantime, whether it be FB or anyone else, I guess it’s time for me to recognize that if I’m online, there really is no such thing as ‘privacy’.

  • Grandpa of 4

    “Grandparents are engaging in the platform, for God’s sake. Once that happens, it’s become a superfluous social phenomenon.”

    Well hump my green and purple cardboard dog, thats just appalling …. how dare they!!

    We use it for family not for business.

    But trust me, fella, we use all your ‘young, trendy smartass ‘ media. AND we mostly know from EXPERIENCE that there is no such thing as a free lunch and that this was bound to happen sooner or later. There is always a price. Your choice to pay or not.

    Great post, its the wilful abuse of my innocence (yeah right, whatever) and the obfuscating of my ability/decision to ‘share’ outside my circle of trust that stings.
    And the EU are great on that abuse of trust stuff and dragging it interminably through the courts. Just ask Microsoft.

    Oh well, now to find someone to push my chair out into a patch of sun. Just as soon as i find where I left my teeth. There they are … right next to my iPad. Can’t wait to tweet that. Superfluously, of course.

  • Jim Rudnick

    Blogged about the same privacy issue up here in Canada too, and the fact that our Canuck Privacy Commissioner, is looking into this exact issue AND there is talk that there may even be court action launched by the .gov up here against FB!!

    http://www.canuckseo.com/index.php/2010/05/04/facebook-privacy-issues-for-canadians/ — is the link to read same…which yes, includes both our .gov offical releases on same and the EFF one too…



  • Eliz

    Facebook does not have 400-500 million users. This is an overblown statement. There are users who are pets, businesses, “remembering” this person who is missing or has died, and multiple pages from the same person with varying degrees of privacy and friends. For example, I started 4 pages. 1 for myself and 3 for friends who never use them. All 4 essentially are mine. I have friends who have a page for family and a page for friends. It was the same when myspace was popular. Do you really think Beethoven is updating since he has been dead several hundred years? I have gone through and deleted every bit of info on my profile. All that is there is my name. I don’t post pics anymore. But, the thing is, that is WHY people join FB. Yes, you don’t have to join, this has been pointed out, but since most families and friends are spread out across the globe, this was an ideal way to share information and pictures with them instantly and in 1 place. And, in addition to that, you could instantly have a conversation about the updated pictures with anyone who comments. And, FB plays right into our narcissistic society…….Look at me, I’m important, everyone must know I did this today.

    No, I don’t see people quitting in droves. In fact, only one person I know is quitting, and everyone thinks I am paranoid for deleting the several hundred pics of my son, and all my info. I don’t want it there now, although it is probably in the “matrix” somewhere. I don’t like the idea that it will be public. Most people won’t quit. They are too invested with FB, having a multitude of friends, pictures, and games to play. Until the next popular thing comes along. Many people don’t care about privacy; “what can they do because they know I live in Memphis and am 30 and have a kid? So what?” They have no idea what they are giving up. To take down the mountain, you must move stone by stone. This is just a stone.

  • Shirley

    I’ve been reading Cracked.com a couple of months after I joined Twitter. At the time I was hardly on Facebook anymore – and I definitely never used the ‘Like’ button, which I find very suspicious. What does it do but following me everywhere, trying to spy on me, anyway?

    And yet, the other day as I tried to clean up my application page on Facebook, I saw that Cracked was listed as application I ‘Recently Used’, along with another random page I commented on, after being referred to it by a friend.

    I don’t buy that bug excuse. It’s just PR language for, “Oh yes, we do spy you, sorry. Nothing you can do about it, though.”

  • Lucretia Pruitt

    Great post on the “why it’s not a good change” Lisa. Facebook has pretty much always ‘changed first and reacted/amended later’ – but usually they don’t react secretly.
    Too bad that Zuck doesn’t believe that his company needs to be as public as they are expecting their users to be.

  • Karl Sakas

    Excellent roundup, Lisa. I am diligent about keeping on top of my privacy settings (why do we have to update them every few weeks?), yet I was surprised to discover last week that my demographic info (location, hometown, education, work) was suddenly set to “Everyone.”

    Beyond Facebook’s general attitude, part of the problem is that the company doesn’t have someone on the inside whose job is to put the users first. As I wrote a few weeks ago, “‘prompt user protests and a PR firestorm every time you update your product’ isn’t exactly a sustainable business strategy.”

  • John Mack

    As some have pointed out, Facebook’s lack of concern with privacy will NOT be a business problem. Facebook will thrive. It is not particularly evil in its intent, just impatient for efficiency and quick changes, staying ahead, dominating, led by a driven/ hyper competitive founder/CEO who was ordained by Harvard into the priestly caste of the “brightest and the best” who can do no wrong.

  • Melissa Sarathy

    It constantly amazes me that the largest social networking site needs a lesson in social etiquette.