For the past couple of weeks the internets have been abuzz with complaints over Facebook’s new terms of service and privacy policies. The primary gripe is that Facebook’s recent changes have opened up previously protected parts of its over 400 million profiles for the masses to see. Now, unless you spend some serious time negotiating Facebook’s new, extra-convoluted privacy settings, your city, employer, friends, hobbies and other profile information can be easily accessed with a casual google search.
In addition to this, they’ve introduced a new way to cull your browsing data, placing “Like” or “Recommend” buttons on hundreds of thousands of unrelated websites. So now, if you’re logged into your Facebook account and happen to visit cnn.com for example, with the click of a button you can “Recommend” their story about the 50th birthday of the laser to all your Facebook friends. Though this might seem benign, it raises some important questions about what, if anything, Facebook is doing with our browsing data.
So, what does this all mean?
In my opinion, not much. While I do disagree in principle with Facebook, or anyone else, unabashedly mining personal data to assemble individual marketing “genomes” for us all, I’m not sure what the real consequences are. A more customized browsing experience? That’s not too bad, is it?
And in terms of the more accessible personal information, so what? If anything, it reinforces the fact that we shouldn’t post anything on our Facebook profile that we wouldn’t want our boss (or grandma) to see. Our digital footprints are basically permanent, and if you don’t want to be haunted by college party pics for decades to come then keep them off Facebook.
Finally, there’s no requirement that one must join Facebook. Though life without Facebook would be tough for many, there are numerous other ways to keep in touch with your friends and family. Telephones are novel. Email is also an old standby. Heck, if you’re inclined, you could even go back to myspace. But whatever you decide, if you’re really fired up about Facebook’s new privacy policies, you can let the whole world know by joining one of the many Facebook groups dedicated to the cause.