Facebook Plans to Give Your Info to Third-Party Sites—Without User Consent?

Mon, Apr 12, 2010

Social Media Marketing

Facebook announced some new changes recently that will include sharing your personal information with other websites without getting your consent beforehand, so that these “pre-approved” businesses can give you a more “personalized” experience when you show up, not even realizing they already know who you are. For Facebook, it is a dream of more profits, but for privacy experts its yet another step towards a future that is nothing less than their worst dreams come true.

The most dangerous aspect of this change, as pointed out by many fuming opponents is that applications like this have become opt-out instead of opt-in. Data portability is a big trend on social networking sites at the moment, but when you jump from opt-in data portability to opt-out, you’re traversing some pretty dangerous territory.

What this means is that users must navigate the Facebook site, find the right settings, and uncheck them in order to take be left out, this is the exact opposite of how it is usually set up. The real concern is most Facebook users don’t have any clue this is even going on. People have enough going on in their lives, and most don’t know enough about the Internet to even try keeping up with it all.

But do Facebook users really care? According to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the answer is no. He claims that privacy is a thing of the past and that Facebook is merely the first respond to big social changes in order to satisfy their customers.

Proponents argue, however, that Zuckerberg’s explanations are merely a part of his effort to continue the destruction of privacy and rake in more profits. As Facebook is chastised by over 900 users threatening to delete their accounts in response to this move, it seems there certainly is a percentage of the public that does still take privacy extremely seriously.

Further concerns over this privacy, a privacy that Facebook continues to advocate is no longer a concern for the modern world, are raised by recent reports that criminal gangs target people on Facebook and other sites for burglaries by mining data obtained online, like addresses and announcements about leaving for vacation. In my own experience, it’s safe to say that these two bits of information are nothing compared to what many people post on Facebook, but it is certainly enough to put them in harm’s way.

There is enough flame going on in this debate without me throwing in my two cents, and trust me I’ve got a lot more than two cents to throw in, but from a marketing standpoint it raises the question of what direction Facebook’s recent actions will mean for the future of the company. Many current users are preparing to delete their accounts, and we are seeing an increasing market share go over to other providers, such as Yahoo.

I’m still a little unconvinced of the public concern for privacy, regardless of how I feel the public “should” feel about their privacy. I’m not so sure that Zuckerberg isn’t right. For Facebook, it is a business move, and they are obviously playing this out on the hunch that some people will leave but the profits gained by those who don’t are well worth walking the line. Only time will tell, I suppose. And so the world evolves.

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Daniel Monteiro - who has written 4 posts on SEO Blog | SEO Marketing World.