Call this my open letter to Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook’s latest changes to privacy have many people up in arms, and rightly so. Contrary to Zuckerberg, privacy is still a major concern amongst web users.
In a post at Newser, a Facebook employee claims that Zuckerberg doesn’t believe in privacy. I don’t know if that’s true, but he apparently isn’t lending as much weight to people’s claims about the need for privacy – he says people are evolving.
I think Zuckerberg is missing the big picture here, and his failure to acknowledge concerns could shorten the lifespan of his baby. After all, history shows that if you create something better, people will flock in droves. It wasn’t that many years ago that MySpace was the place to interact on the Internet. Facebook changed that, and an appealing aspect was the ability to share or not share publicly. To think that another network won’t someday do the same to Facebook is truly ignorant. Facebook does, however, have the ability to be the key player for a long, LONG time, but only if Zuckerberg forgets what he thinks and listens to the rest of us.
Privacy DOES matter.
Years ago when I interned at an Army Depot’s PR department, we frequently printed stories about various departments. When we were covering the motorcade, a rather sensitive, 40-something woman asked me if she had to be in the picture. She went on to explain that she’d been in an abusive marriage, and her ex-husband, who worked on the other side of the depot, had no idea that she worked there. She asked if she could stand in the back, and if I would conveniently forget to include her name.
I’m not without my own experiences. I have been a victim of real-life stalking and for a time, I received threatening emails and letters as a result of me running a web site about The Black Dahlia. For years, my driver’s license has always included a PO Box as my address. While I was open with my name and discussions on the Internet, I shielded many other aspects about where I lived, and what I did in my private life. My phone number was either unpublished or under a different name; even my credit cards were all tied to a postal box, not a street address.
This all changed, of course, when I bought a house. So now, I’m more of an open book. But for the hundreds of thousands of victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence, and backlash of whistle blowing – simply put, many don’t want to remind others that they even exist. They don’t want to jump out there and say, “Hey, you might not have even looked for me, but guess what? Here I am.”
Many parents I’ve spoken with won’t let their kids create a Facebook account, even if so many of the friends are already connected. Parents cite not only issues with kid’s discussion patterns, but also privacy reasons. So, they opt for more kid-friendly focused communities. In a few (or many) years, where will these kids go? To Facebook? Or another startup that seems more appealing?
I know that many people use Facebooks mostly for playing games, and that’s where I think Zuckerberg also misses a key issue. A good many of the popular games people play on Facebook can already be played elsewhere. Zynga already promotes, via its own forums and site content, that people play directly off Zynga servers, rather than through the Facebook channel.
While the concept of Open Graph for the sake of sharing, and thus expanding our horizons on the aspect of “social media,” it all needs to be done by a knowing choice. Perhaps Zuckerberg is seeing Facebook as setting law on the Internet. After all, ignorance of the laws of our government doesn’t protect us when we commit a crime. If so, he’s mistaken, because Facebook, whether users realize it or not, is an enterprise, and we have control over whether or not the venue makes money.
Not for the success of Facebook’s ventures, but rather for the protection of those who need it, I beg Zuckerberg, as have thousands of users and government officials, to rethink the privacy settings. Opt-in, not opt-out.