Nick Bilton, lead technology writer at New York Times, just live-blogged Facebook’s privacy announcement. Facebook unveiled a series of measures to calm consumers fears on the privacy of content posted on the very popular social networking site. I think it will satisfy many people. You can read more in the New York Times article or on Facebook itself. I did note an interesting Local/Social question from Bilton during the session:
[Bilton] asked about the company’s plans to roll out services that share your location and how it will avoid another backlash about this.
Mr. Zuckerberg: We are really going to try to not have another backlash. The settings that we announced today will apply to all the settings going forward. I’m not ready to talk about anything around location, frankly because it’s not done yet, and we’re not ready to talk about it yet. But we can say that the settings that you apply today will be set for those experiences. This one simple setting will control all of the new products that we launch when we move forward. This is something that we’ve never done before.
What it means: excellent question from Nick Bilton, knowing how sensitive geo-location information can be. Read about Please Rob Me to understand the potential implications. But Facebook geo-location capabilities are coming! And it will probably be a game-changer.
… for academics like Stutzman and others increasingly turning their attention to social networks, there’s a name for what happens when everyone joins the same site at the same time, perhaps rendering it uncool: “context collapse.” That’s the term used to describe a series of awkward events like when your boss or parents friend you, or someone posts a picture of you that you don’t want your colleagues seeing (…). As these activities cascade, social media research has shown that people begin to shy away from their online persona and begin aggressively limiting the information that appears about themselves. Not surprisingly, users begin to stress out about their tangled social scenes and abandon the network all together. “What needs to happen—and what’s going to happen—is that there needs to be more granular privacy settings,” says Nicole Ellison, who researches and teaches on social media at Michigan State University. “
via Tech: Will Facebook Still Be Around in Five Years? | Newsweek Technology | Newsweek.com.
What it means: the same way we will want content filters to find the important activities in a real-time stream, we will want privacy filters to select which of your shared information is accessible to whom.
Following the furor over the new Facebook Beacon product, the company has decided to back-off and offer a complete opt-out to the product. Mark Zuckerberg explains on the Facebook blog:
Facebook has succeeded so far in part because it gives people control over what and how they share information. This is what makes Facebook a good utility, and in order to be a good feature, Beacon also needs to do the same. People need to be able to explicitly choose what they share, and they need to be able to turn Beacon off completely if they don’t want to use it.
This has been the philosophy behind our recent changes. Last week we changed Beacon to be an opt-in system, and today we’re releasing a privacy control to turn off Beacon completely. You can find it here. If you select that you don’t want to share some Beacon actions or if you turn off Beacon, then Facebook won’t store those actions even when partners send them to Facebook.
What it means: as Scoble said yesterday, this is a perfect example of a badly handled PR situation. Facebook should have come out sooner to solve this obvious privacy issue. “Do the press conference. Admit you screwed up. Take your shots. Look into the camera and say you’re sorry.” said Scoble. I think the last straw was the fact that, even though you declined to share your information on Facebook, the info was still sent to Facebook from third-party web sites. This move should reassure most people but make sure you opt-out if you’re still worried.
While the blogosphere is slowly discovering what Facebook Beacon does, MoveOn.org, a US advocacy group, has launched a campaign against the new advertising system. They’re asking users to sign a petition and join a Facebook group to protest what they call a “huge invasion of privacy”.
With the help of this blog post from Charlene Li (Forrester Research), I’m starting to understand more what the Beacon ad product does. Charline explains that her husband bought a coffee table on OverStock.com and that when she next logged in to Facebook, she saw this mention at the top of her newsfeed.
She explains that “Facebook Beacon is merely a small piece of script that allows the partner site to put a cookie on your browser. So when I bought the table, an Overstock cookie was created, which then transferred the information to Facebook. Facebook then checks to see that the same browser is logged into Facebook, and shows the information.”
Many in the blogosphere are concerned by this new ad product. In response, Chris Kelly, chief privacy officer of Facebook, said in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal that “Facebook is transparent in communicating to users what it is tracking. When a user visits an outside site and completes an action like buying a movie ticket, a box shows up in the corner of his Internet browser telling that person the outside Web site is sending that information to Facebook. The user can opt out by clicking on text that reads “No, thanks.” If the user doesn’t, the next time they visit Facebook, the user will see a message from Facebook asking for permission to show the information to their friends. If the user declines, the information won’t be sent.”
Phil Windley from ZDNet has a great conclusion to the whole fracas: “Facebook realizes that simply relying on the targeted ads of the past won’t garner much attention and that they have a tremendous asset in the social graph within their system. Facebook Beacon is an attempt to capitalize on that by using the social graph to make advertising more useful for the customer and more profitable for Facebook. Unfortunately, they got it wrong. Instead of advertising, they should have focused on recommendations. No one is going to say “please show me more ads based on what my friends like.” But plenty of people will ask a friend to recommend digital cameras or books to them.”
Update: Peter Kafka (at Silicon Alley Insider) offers Facebook two solutions to resolve the situation. “The short-term solution: Turn off Beacon until you can make it fully opt-in. The long-term solution: Let users sign up for Beacon via Facebook, and give them a reason to do so.”
By now, I’m sure everyone in the search industry is aware that Google launched their street view pictures within Google Maps (and also the acquisition of Panoramio). Not surpringly, articles are popping up about potential privacy issues. The best answer I’ve seen so far is from Lauren Weinstein, a renowned expert in Internet privacy.
His conclusion: “So, bottom line — for now the Google Maps street level photos provide a useful service and should not raise significant privacy concerns, except for a tiny percentage of photos that can be easily expunged. Whether this benign situation will remain the case depends upon Google’s decisions regarding the service moving forward.”
What it means: as I believe visual navigation is a key element of the future of local search, I invite everyone interested in the subject to read Lauren’s remarks on the launch of Google StreetView.
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