Is Facebook unethical, clueless or unlucky?

Sent this to my email newsletter earlier today… you can join the list at

UPDATED/RELATED (9:30AM December 14th): 1. Excellent post from Dan Gillmor on why he deleted his Facebook page, which supports my thesis below.  2. The EFF’s comments on Facebook’s horrific behavior is great supporting evidence. These two articles appeared DAYS before my rambling piece below. 3. Facebook reached out and asked me to do a call with them. This call will occur this afternoon. Please post updates below (or link to this story so I can link back).


Title: Is Facebook unethical, clueless or unlucky?
Location: CalaCompound, Brentwood, CA
Date/Time: December, 13th 2009 11:20AM
Subscribers: 18,463
Republishing: Looking for someone to donate to charity
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Facebook proved again this week that they are either the most
unethical or clueless internet company in the world. An amazing
accomplishment since Facebook is also one of the most promising, and
certainly fastest growing, internet companies of all time.  Perhaps
I’m being hyperbolic (who me?), or maybe they are a little of both,
but the fact remains they screw up on important issues almost as if
it’s a “best practice” to do so.

In case you missed it, when you logged into Facebook this week you
were road blocked with a popup explaining that they “we’re making some
changes to give you more control.” Sounds good, and like most users
looking to quickly get into a website or application, I simply clicked
through the message. How important could it be?

When faced with a TOS (Terms of Service) or license the world has been
trained to hit the word “agree,” and click, click, click until they
get to the actual website or software they were trying to get to in
the first place.

Everyone in the industry knows this, and certainly a company built off
of studying social behavior like Facebook would. Since the ToS is
considered a formality, it is up to technology companies–in fact our
industry–to behave. If we don’t behave well then we are going to get
regulated by clueless politicians and policy makers. That would suck
for everyone.

So What Happens When you Clickthrough?
In this case, if you simply click through the windows you’ve exposed
all of your private Facebook information, including comments, friends,
pictures and status updates, to “everyone.” In other words clicking
through changes everything in Facebook terms–unlike every other
license or update screen you’ve experienced in your life.

I’m sorry, what the frack just happened? I turned over my friend list,
photos and status updates to everyone in the world? Why on earth would
anyone do that with their Facebook page?

The entire purpose of Facebook since inception has been to share your
information with a small group of people in your private network.
Everyone knows that and everyone expects that. In fact, Facebook’s
success is largely based on the face that people feel save putting
their private information on Facebook.

When you do get to the second page a series of confusing radio buttons
default–yes defaults–to giving everyone access to your social graph.
Wow. I’ve been using the internet since before images were supported.
I’ve been a member of every social network since Six Degrees and Ryze,
almost a decade before Facebook became available to the public, and I
was confused by their settings page. An average user, certainly, has
no idea what is going on by these changes.

So why is Facebook trying to trick their users?

Simple: search results.

Facebook is trying to dupe hundreds of millions of users they’ve spent
years attracting into exposing their data for Facebook’s personal
gain: pageviews. Yes, Facebook is tricking us into exposing all our
items so that those personal items get indexed in search
engines–including Facebook’s–in order to drive more traffic to

So why is this wrong?
While there is nothing wrong with having a service that is “public by
default,” it is highly unethical to flip your users over to public in
a such a deceitful way

Twitter is, of course, public by default, and we all know that
Facebook is obsessed with Twitter innovations including their short
status updates, their API and most of all, their “open by default”

Facebook has had a couple of innovations in their history, like their
application layer and news feed (which is now gone), but for the past
couple of years they’ve given up on innovation and focused on stealing
ideas from Twitter and out-executing them, while not caring about user
rights. This is challenging for Twitter, which is run by the highly
ethical Evan Williams and Biz Stone. In fact, those two guys are
massively conservative when it comes to their user base.

Facebook continues their non-stop copying of Twitter, and even after
the absurdly stupid “Facebook Beacon” debacle, they continue to try
and sneak unethical behavior past the masses–and the industry.

The result? They’re winning and winning big!

It is so depressing when one of our leading companies bases their
ethics on “will we get caught?” and perhaps more precisely: “if we do
get caught will it cost us anything in relation to the money we’ll
make when we go public?”

The Issue Facebook is creating for all Internet companies
Another problem Facebook is creating with their reckless behavior is
that they are simultaneously making users distrust the internet and
bringing the attention of regulators.

As an industry we should police ourselves and do everything we can to
create trust with users.

It would be great if the “adults” sitting around Zuckerberg’s cube
would explain to the Golden Child that just because he’s on the Forbes
billionaires list and he generates a mob of sycophants around him at
the TED conference, that doesn’t mean he gets a free pass to bring the
heat down on all of us.

Behave yourself dude!

How would you do it better?
If Facebook was more concerned with ethics than world domination, they
would simply post a popup that said something like:

“Dear Facebook Members,

Good news, we’ve now added the option to share your content with
everyone! Be sure to check out this new feature here and be sure to
consider if you want to expose your content to the world before
changing your settings!”

Of course, that would result in 1% of users turning their service to
“everyone” (i.e. public) a month. It would take years to convert a
meaningful amount of users and their personal data into revenue
generating public objects. With Facebook’s IPO–the one that will save
Silicon Valley–around the corner, there is simply nothing we can do.

Facebook’s IPO and revenue growth trumps user’s rights, right?

Growth at all costs!

Long live the Golden Child!

Ticker: FCBK FTW!

Can I still get a friends and family allotment?



Questions (hit reply, or post to your blog):

1. Is Facebook clueless, unethical or just unlucky? Why?
2. Will Facebook’s latest behavior result in more lawsuits and/or
industry regulation?
3. Do you trust Facebook with your information?

all the best,



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107 thoughts on “Is Facebook unethical, clueless or unlucky?”

  1. I sent you an email regarding this Jason, but I’ll repeat it
    here: I had already decided to leave facebook due to their
    knuckle headed decisions regarding privacy. I understand they
    need to create a monetary stream besides advertising, but they
    don’t have to be unethical about it. Your email newsletter
    convinced me to stop talking about it and take action. Maybe
    if enough people leave Facebook, they’ll get the idea.

  2. clueless = most of Facebook’s users
    unethical = Mark Zuckerberg
    unlucky = anyone that didn’t read the terms this week

    It’s not just search results, but clearly for advertising,
    making more settings public = better targeting = more money.
    = Facebook

    Take this as yet another warning to get out while you can.

  3. I agree, The method Facebook passed this new notification is
    not good at all. People already setup their privacy to
    restrict access, Prompting this is a clear indication that
    facebook is trying to expose personal information to public
    which most people dont want. if facebook’s intention was good
    they wont put such a notice just after login.

    FACEBOOK! Be careful, Users are becoming more and more aware
    of the issue of privacy. Stop messing with Users Privacy!

  4. Huh? The choices were obvious. No one who wasn’t a drooling
    cretin couldn’t have figured out how to keep settings at
    the most private.

  5. Just a minor disagreement here, when myself and my wife logged in we were
    in, we were met with a different scenario. The pop up window
    had it set up with our original settings, not “everyone” and
    most people I know also had that setting. Wondering why some
    people were set for one and some for the other.

  6. There are very few websites I trust with my information. My REAL information. People are too trained at filling in any form they are given on the Internet with their real information. 99.5% of Internet websites do not NEED your personal information, they just want it. You are a fool if you don’t think they have ulterior motives. Data = money.

    The best way of keeping Facebook (or any other website) from sharing your personal information is by not giving it to them.

  7. Wow! Knew things were changing on there, but never really thought about it all that much. My take on Facebook or MySpace or any other internet oulet is this…if there are things you don’t want other people–whoever that may be–to see them; then basically do no post that information. With the Patriot Act going into effect I think we all know that the privacy granted via democracy is basically a thing of the past.

    I see your point and understand where you are coming from I just don’t think it is something to getupset about…breathe and re-set your settings, sounds like you have it figured out anyway.

    I have an issue with where employers are concerned, where they may view your pages and draw conclusions about you on a personal level that are off base and then form a professional profile about you. These are social networks…areas to chat with friends that may be across the country if not the globe. The way I see it is this: (remember I live in Florida) if an employer chooses not to hire me due to a social network post then they are simply way too uptight for me to work for anyway.

    Where I live you can be fired simply because someone does not like you, your haircut is not to their liking or your eyes are green. I was just let go from a job due to the fact that the manager told my temp agent that she needs ‘uneducated’ individuals to work for her!! I LOST A JOB BECAUSE I HAVE TWO DEGRESS AND COMMON SENSE….paradise?

    This is why Facebook is the least of my worries right now.

  8. I normally take stuff dealing with my Privacy pretty seriously so I
    was waiting for the changes and instantly verified everything was how
    I wanted it. Most my old settings were imported. The only thing that
    really gave me a problem was finding out how to turn off displaying of
    my friends to everyone. Other then that, the settings didn’t seem much
    different then before.

    1. I like to think they’re just dumb. I really am getting tired of the
    ripping off of twitter though.

    2. I hope at the very least they’re forced to change things. If
    people pas this post around and create a big enough stink about it
    I’m sure they will.

    3. No, not anymore. FaceBooks recent history regarding privacy has
    been bad. I normally lie when I have to answer questions with personal
    information. I recently read an article about how the most seemingly
    unimportant information (like your birthday, zip code, and sex) can
    be used to get much, much more.

  9. 1. Yes, unethical. But that’s nothing new. Run this experiment:
    – Go to search for friends using a junk email account you have,
    one of those “i only use this to troll forums or enter contests” acccounts.
    – Check to see if Facebook stores it. I found that yes, they do.

    2. Lawsuits, maybe. Not really, but if they go public HELL YES. These boys REALLY need to grow up about data security and storage. Compliance will be WAY more strict.

    3. Nope. But I don’t trust any site any more than I absolutely need to to have the site work for me.

  10. No comments, Really??

    I saw the page late one night when I went flying in to reply to someone I really needto ply to.

    Great. Typing right off the side.
    Right clicked and opened a new window. clicked by and replied.
    Came back and checked the “new” settings. Since I hadn’t chose the default from day 1 (i took some time in choosing who should seee what, mine were pretty much as i wanted them.

    I appreciate the new granularity on status updates. that has been a problem for me in the past.

    Some things are now public or leave, though I hear you can hide your friends list if you wish – you just have to hide it from everyone.
    I often use friends list when searching for people – is this my friend or just someone with the same name – lets check their friend list. they are all in Australia. guess not.

  11. I’m pretty confused by what you’re describing here. I logged into Facebook this week and got the new settings screen. I was in a hurry so I clicked through the new settings rather quickly — nothing seemed particularly different in the default settings, so I let them be and submitted straight through.

    Just logged off Facebook and checked my profile. No private information showing. Where’s the fire?

  12. You can’t be serious (or that paranoid). Do you really think FB is doing this for the search results? I had no problem following the directions and maintaining the privacy I already had, which is to keep everything friend-only. How are others not doing the same?

    Bottom line, removing the networks, which were the things that arbitrarily opened up your stuff to everyone in that network (something few users understood), was the right thing to do.

  13. First, I had the same experience you had, Jason — confusion — and have been online just as long.

    If there’s an award opacity, Facebook wins hands down.

    Second, you’re dead right. This isn’t just about Facebook. The potential spillover effects for the entire tech/social media world are enormous.

    fyi, there’s a new Facebook group, The New Facebook Privacy Is not Private!

    And while I don’t usually join groups with exclamation points, I joined this one.

  14. I felt the same way as you nicely wrote here. Facebook isn’t
    trying to innovate to thrive but cheat and steal personal info
    by tricking busy users who can’t possibly bother with little
    checks and unchecks.

  15. I’ve Always preferred private family communications at to these networking sites- even if they don’t try to trick you into “going public” they are a mess.

  16. 100% agreed jason. we the users, entered into an implied contract w/facebook after “zuck’s” countless pleas that facebook was different than myspace. his claim was that facebook was about letting you keep in touch w/people you already knew in the meatspace (this was never myspace or twitter’s claims, and that’s what made them different an interesting to many). facebook was providing a way to better keep up w/our existing friends. now they try to change the rules. if they’re willing to do this now, what happens when they decide to make other decisions about the info we’ve poured into their system under false pretence. this is a slippery trust slope that they’re moving into. your comments do not come across paranoid, rather they come across as prescient and realistic to what’s taking place in front of our very eyes.

  17. I think FB is doing this to cut down the complexity of its infrastructure. It takes a lot of CPU cycles to check all the security credentials necessary to serve an image with FB’s fine grained privacy policies, which doesn’t play well with caching, etc.

    I think FB did this b/c it views its security model as a huge barrier to the next big phase of growth… if you are Zuckerberg you don’t want to spend 80% of your engineering talent on scaling photo security, you want to spend it on something more fun.

    I agree that it was handled poorly, but I think you are one of the few people who noticed. I noticed, and just updated my settings to the (strict) settings I desire… My wife was perplexed and annoyed, however, so I think you’re right about the trust issue too.

  18. Yes, clicking through generic ToS agreements is standard behavior.

    However, it was extremely obvious to me that the privacy setting screen that Facebook directed me to was anthing but a generic agreement to be skipped.

    I also find it weird that you would call the screen confusing. If you have the English skills to write a composition consisting of sentences and paragraphs, then options like “Who can see your photos? [x] Everyone [] Friends [] Only me” should be pretty simple.

    I’m sorry, but your complaints just aren’t legitimate.

  19. I totally disagree about the “just agree to TOS” thing.

    When you logged in it went out of it’s way to show you each section/type and let you select if you want it to be “everyone” or private.

    There’s really no way you could have missed it unless you were totally not paying attention. there was no “fine print” or sneakiness too it.

    I’m not trying to totally defend Facebook, but come on people use your head and some basic common sense.

  20. You’re absolutely right. Facebook has cemented their reputation as being untrustworthy. Stalkers everywhere are going to LOVE this.

  21. This represents a profound misunderstanding of FB’s policies and procedure. First, I don’t know what was so confusing about the privacy settings, or what you did. I had my page set completely private before and nothing changed for me. And yes, I did look over the whole thing. Also, people don’t seem to understand the Live Feed. This isn’t new or stolen from Twitter. FB had a Live Feed before and removed it when they did the major site revamp earlier this year. People were pounding at the door to have it put back in, and they finally did, and now people don’t seem to remember that it was there before. People seem to have the memory span of a gnat these days.

    Also, FB was never about creating small social networks. Sure, you had that ability, but you could also expand to a global scale if you chose to do so. There’s nothing stopping you from keeping things small, and frankly if you’re exposing everything to world, that’s your own fault as an irresponsible internet user. A responsible internet user is more careful. Do I trust FB with my private information? About as much as any other internet company. Even set to private, I won’t put anything up on the site that I wouldn’t mind the world seeing anyway. That’s just common sense. It’s not going to bring the wrath of any regulators down more than anything else has. In fact, it will probably curtail it since, as was mentioned in the comments already, the change actually plugs a privacy hole that they’ve had for a while.

    I think this article mostly acts as a prime example of how people just don’t like change, even when it’s meaningless change or even for the better.

  22. 1 hr so resubmitted)

    Jeff P – actually the recent changes have taken at least one aspect from your control so that your info is NOT friends only. Even after fb backtracked slightly on the 10th, you’re not able to shield your friends list which will still be publicly available and accessible by applications ( There’s no opt-out possibility there yet. The transition tool in the grayed out portion on the right indicated your friends list would be available for indexing by search engines, again with no opt-out possibility. But the users’ eyes were most likely drawn to the brighter text and radio buttons on the left instead.

    Thank you, Jason, for writing this post, I largely agree with you and have been alarmed by the number of media outlets and bloggers that have merely regurgitated facebook’s statements without looking closely at the details or implications, (wrongly) celebrating the changes as a positive step for users to control their privacy. Thankfully not everyone fell for the Jedi mindtrick and there are some glimmers of pushback / awareness rising. I know I’m an outlier for scrutizing TOS but the generally glowing coverage has been disappointing (especially by those who cover the sector, perhaps lazy or pressure for speed of response???).

    Where I perhaps disagree is that this is largely about search results, I believe it goes beyond that to DATAMINING (though perhaps that was implicit for you). All of those declarations of one’s interests (whether music, films, books, political and/or religious leanings, fan pages, etc.), and the social graph of those of their friends and their friends declared interests, are incredibly rich data for marketers, pollsters, etc. This can and is used for more than just what targeted ad to serve up. Political campaigns etc use such data for targeting voters ( ). I know that’s not an issue that some people care about, so let me raise the specter of something that will concern them – PRICING. The race in the industry to hire all of these quant jocks and rocket scientists isn’t strictly for targeting ads. As Jason and others may recall, there was a bit of a minor dustup about 10 years ago when it was discovered that Amazon was experimenting with charging different customers different prices for the same item. But with time, such dynamic pricing has quietly crept into practice in more corners ( ) and this will only accelerate. Frankly much of the general public isn’t really conscious of this (most know about this for airfare but don’t realize the extent of it in everyday purchases). Think about it, beyond ad targeting for some it’s the Holy Grail to strive to model individuals’ price sensitivity and extract as many $$$ as possible. Relatively successful algorithms on this front will be *major* goldmines. I liked negotiating a tough but fair deal for my car and like scoring deals generally, I certainly don’t want to feel like a fool for overpaying for a commodity.

    Further, I believe it’s not just facebook that users concerned about their privacy need to potentially worry about, but also third parties that are able to grab and mine data through the APIs. Penalties for bad behavior are so laughable at this point and regulation lags; with such rich potential rewards for something so simple as an innocent seeming quiz or game as a front to harvest data, some cockroaches are sure to emerge.

    Again, THANK YOU for ringing the alarm on this to help fuel a dialogue and perhaps more accountability from facebook. As for your query, while I may not go so far as to call them unethical, it doesn’t pass the sniff test for me, it does feel they’re trying to pull a fast one and take advantage of their users’ trust.

  23. This is just one thing in a long line of annoyances. It is unfortunate because I like facebook a lot more then most social networking services. Myspace is to flashy and most peoples pages have huge layers of bullshit i don’t want to deal with. Facebook is fairly streamlined and easy to organize. The widgets get old and annoying and I block all messages from people using games like farmville and pimpwars.

    The most irritating factor about facebook is the lack of being able to reach anyone in authority in a normal time frame [or at all most times]. They have no direct feedback e-mail address linked from there help section it appears to be just policed by the users. Why does such a large company not have any viable means of contacting someone that works at there company. No one answers there phones, no direct e-mail address’s, of the known addresses rarely does someone get an answer even to c ritical questions. Heaven forbid you get suspended for some reason good luck appealing that or evne getting ahold of someone at facebook other then possibly a generic form response.

    That said facebook is still my favorite but I am very leary of them. They need to shape up and at least offer a way to reach them.


  24. There is no doubt that Facebook is dying. Their stupidity just embarassing these days.
    Every move they make is another nail in their coffin, the more they attempt to redirect their site towards a more ‘Twitter’-like website… the harder they fail and look like clowns.

    Facebook seems only to be used by either clueless internet sheep, old people (its the new Hotmail) and stupid school children who cant shut up about it bragging about friends lists at bus stops.

    I can not wait for the day it perishes like Myspace.

  25. Unless you’ve gone through the entire list of Authorized Applications and their privacy settings, I seriously doubt that average users have a handle on keeping their privacy or maintaining security on their FB profiles. I thought I had it set up right, and then I went and looked at that list of apps, and most of them were set to Everyone by default.

  26. Jason, simple rational did FB start?

    By seeing if a programmer would get caught scraping HU directory pages..that aspect is still in the managment DNA as it flows downhill from top to bottom..

    I put nothing private on my FB profile with good reason

    Its about like asking Mike Arrington to avoid posting false articles
    claiming that there is a Googlephone when evidence points to Google
    just updating APD1 to is not going to happen..

    The only hope is that long term these moves catch up with FB,
    which will happen.

  27. Well, I think they may have changed their minds – I just
    went through the process you described, and it defaulted
    to keeping everything private. The only problem we had was
    that some of my photo albums defaulted to “everyone”, but
    this felt like a bug considering everything else didn’t

  28. Interestingly enough, I had the exact opposite experience – FB automatically set all my stuff to Friends only. I know this since I had to specifically set some stuff back to Everyone in my network.

  29. I agree with you, both the previous replies and…
    Zuckerberg himself.

    Was it wrong to put public as a default setting?
    Yes, and that is why they added a compulsive screen,
    with the questions rather clearly laid out,
    two options presented as a default in their own way,
    and more explanations available.
    Because of their business model,
    Facebook has to imagine something that is different from
    the usual “almost acceptable ToS” and it’s a good thing to
    innovate in that area.
    However, like Google that started scraping websites
    without the permission to do so,
    it’s a hacker company: they experiment by steping on a line
    none knew existed before they showed
    what you could do by steping over it.
    What will happen, now? Facebook will have tons of feedback,
    especially negative one;
    they generated some sympathies by showing Zuckerberg’s profile,
    and the rather acceptable content there — See? No big deal. —
    and, like they did several times before (NewsFeed, Beacon, Apps),
    they’ll use the few days they’ll ask to “go back“ to
    let us imagine a different service, a way of using Facebook
    that wasn’t possible before.

    I like the idea that one has more fine-tuned settings,
    and (in spite of the countless hours it will take me to
    consult all my friends and family on how to tackle those) I like
    the idea that you cannot use an on-line service without
    thinking about your visibility. There is no ‘default’ anymore.
    As pointed out by danah boyd in her latest presentations,
    people used to think of a service based on what they see.
    Now, they’ll have to think about what image they project
    and to whom.

  30. The defaults weren’t “share with everyone” when I went through it. Even the things I had customized before, so they didn’t match any of the new presets, were preserved—as far as I found.

  31. Thank you for finally writing this article. I was wondering how long it would take before someone would point out how outrageous this “good news” was.

    It took me 15 minutes of serious work to get my privacy settings back to where they were before the change (and I have an IT background). I also had to sit down with my sister, parents, and friends to help them get back to the privacy they desire (and once had).

    Facebook has duped people into “unlocking” themselves to the world. I can now see photos of my boss’s vacation (who I am deliberately not friends with on the site), and entire profiles for complete strangers. Outrageous.

    I can’t decide what their motivation is, because traffic at the sacrifice of desired privacy seems ignorant. Only time will tell.

    Thanks again for getting this topic out there.

  32. I’m with “sharemefg” in that I put nothing terribly private in my Facebook profile. I just assume anything I put up there is for everyone rather than mess with privacy controls that seem to be changing way too often anyway (of course, one reason is laziness, another is that I use Twitter a lot, but it’s effective, to the point where high school classmates ask me why I don’t have pictures of my kid on FB. Didn’t occur to me to put them on there).

    However, if I cared more about using thee controls, I would be outraged, and agree with your post in that respect.

    As for “Putz,” how are other not doing the same? For the reason Jason laid out– people just click through. Who wants to read a privacy policy or ToS (not “who should” but “who wants to”)?

  33. Jason
    I totally agree with your assessment.

    Actually read 2 blogs on same subject re: FB TOS. (via BoingBoing)

    It pretty much states same similar issues you highlighted here
    with regards to the difficulty in the new FB settings. Blogs
    also mention the FB TOS issue whereby the user has really
    no control over any info it provides on FB.

    In response to your earlier questions, here are my brief

    1)I do think FB is unethical but not clueless or unlucky.
    At end of the day, it’s about corporate bottom line. FB is
    a corporation now in its own right. However, it’s taking
    advantage of its customers without any prior focus group
    exercises or customer engagements to define and decide
    if the current strategy & tactis agrees with its customers.
    Typical behaviour of any monopoly.

    2)Lawsuits – I’m sure there will be some down the line as
    we’re touching on unchartered internet privacy territory that
    has not even been clearly defined from legal standpoint
    on global level.

    IMHO the industry regulation will absolutely be defined by not
    the industry itself but by the government. Russia & US are
    already in talks with regards to cyberspace laws & limiting
    cybercriminal activities. European countries are in process
    of finalising very limiting Internet laws too.

    And then you have the other matter where governments are
    increasingly putting in efforts & funds spying measures on
    internet participants and behaviour.

    3)I do not trust FB or internet in general re: personal info.
    Therefore, I keep my personal info to a minimum. I used to
    have FB when it was still new & not so popular as now.
    It became difficult to manage when professional colleagues
    & friends were too intertwined into each other and no
    possibility to separate the two groups in FB.

    It’s lucky that my professional life doesn’t really revolve
    around web related work so decided to delete my accounts
    in several social networks including FB.

    Kudos to you for highlighting your opinions and analysis on

  34. I clicked through mine, and they were all set to how I had them
    previously. The next time I logged in, they forced me to go change them, as previously I skipped it

    If people are too fucking stupid to READ, then they deserve all their stuff to be visible. If you don’t take the time to understand the software you are using, or read something as important as relating to your privacy, then either suck it up, or stop using the Internet, as you are clearly not ready for it.

  35. If people are really worried about their privacy, all they have to do is check out their privacy settings and set them properly. Its not hard. It does not take a lot of time.

    My opinion? Its kind of like the drivers on the road… just because everyone can get a liscence, doesn’t mean they should.

    Same goes for using the Internet. If you don’t understand it, stay the hell away from it.

  36. If you’re a Facebook user then you’ve been duped way before this latest gambit – you are only now realizing it! That can’t be pleasant!

    They are not unethical – they are operating under business/legal ethics… and pretending to care about personal freedoms/privacy… whatever sells…
    They are not clueluess – it’s not search they are after, it’s money, and they will do whatever they can (I was about to say that goes unpunished, but I believe they will also tolerate punishment if the payback is right)
    They are not unlucky – I never cease to be amazed by the number of people who complain about and criticize facebook, but still use the service! Luck has nothing to do with it.

    They may be dishonest, manipulative… but this is common knowledge and practice, so it’s not really about ethics is it?

    This is as ridiculous as smokers blaming tobaco companies… but hey… that worked!

    I wonder if, for argument’s sake, Facebook were to charge $100 a year per user… and would simply offer people a “free account” in return for giving up all their privacy – would people still buy into it? How is much is your privacy worth to you? There’s no such thing as free! Say it out loud – there’s no such thing is free!

  37. Jason, thanks for being on this. My own feeling is, were it as simple as simply exposing everything on fb, making the network and its activity transparent (turning it into an open social network), then, maybe a bait and switch would have taken place, maybe fb users who thought they were in a closed system will have to go elsewhere now, having been forsaken, but, that would not be such a bad thing. Check that: that would not be as bad as what I suspect we will be getting: a morass where the platform remains, not transparent, but privacy is enforced selectively, and only as the network interfaces with consumers. That is, those controlling the ads, fb, and those who pay fb (with dollars or traffid), are going to get more and more insight into specific fb users and their activities, start targeting them more specifically. Fb I think just wants to open the stream to those who would monetize it. They are not committed to the open web. Given their philosophy, I do hope they go the way of AOL or myspace pretty soon. Maybe they will end up having been a transitional net experience for a ton of people.

  38. Ummm, your own fault. It was really NOT that hard to understand the privacy settings page where the ‘default’ settings were the ones you had previously setup and you could choose to now open up your information to the world. As highly non-techie as I am, it was plain English. You didn’t understand it? I wonder why.

  39. I just selected save current settings and told it not to index, the only thing that would of been index would of been what Everyone could see anyway. I just reviewed my settings after this and things seem fine.

  40. I guess this happens in every product and every industry out there.
    Nevertheless, this being digital media translates into more and quicker critics.
    So….this, I would think, is as we say in Spanish,

    “Gajes del oficio!”

    Not to be distorted or taken so seriously…even less so if comparing
    it to Twitter or other COMMERCIAL venues….


  41. One of the deceptions on privacy involves settings outside
    the Privacy control area. The entire friends list exposure
    is a huge red flag and being tweaked daily as facebook tries
    to pacify the uproar but must keep the friends list exposed.

    Settings – Application Settings WOW, are some in for a shock
    when they change the default view of “RECENT USED” to
    “AUTHORIZED”.. Some see TONS of apps they dont even recall
    accepting lurking there with full access to every single piece
    of their info, pics, videos.. EVERYTHING.. this makes the
    privacy settings of what friends applications can share very
    very important..

  42. “the fact remains they screw up on important issues almost as if
    it’s a “best practice” to do so.”

    What if it actually is? Their growth is crazy.

    They get more traffic and are growing faster than sites that screw up less than they do.

  43. While I go into great detail with examples proving my point, the gist of the matter is…

    1) I believe Facebook is totally unethical. They’ve proven it time and time again with their idiotic decisions.

    2) Lawsuits are going to fly. I think as time goes on people will find themselves in legal situations created solely due to the lack of privacy. I would assume that as more users become aware of the issues, that a class action lawsuit is imminent.

    3) When Facebook was much smaller, I trusted them, but they grow to move themselves into a bigger player in the internet, they continue to make decisions that I do not support, and cannot support.

  44. although I’ve never met Mark Zuckerberg, I believe Facebook’s move to open up user information to everyone probably has more to do with its VCs/investors than its founder. The investors are the ones that need returns in a relatively short time period and, with the price that’s been paid by most of them and the existing revenue multiples for media/online advertising companies, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re constantly trying to push the envelope. As for the personal information in question, with all the bots trolling the internet and social networks these days, the large number of Facebook applications that download that information and the number of websites that use Facebook Connect to get access to some of that info, most of the information being referred to is already “semi” publicly available to the people who would tend to misuse it like spammers/hackers/etc.

    The government could get involved, but for most people, I would assume (could be wrong assumption) that most of the personal information in Facebook is already available to the public somewhere else on the web, weakening any case the government would have against Facebook. Besides, who doesn’t have pictures of themselves or videos somewhere on the web that are a lot more damaging to their image or privacy than the information in Facebook. With everybody walking around with a GPS device and a camera connected to the Internet, this situation will only get worse.

    I do not trust Facebook with my personal information, nor do I trust any other site or online service with my personal information. Call me paranoid. Besides, nothing’s free. The advertising business model implies that the user data will be used for “targeted ads”. I think it’s wishful thinking to believe that the personal information we put in the cloud is private.

    That being said, what Facebook is doing is wrong. Using an industry standard and the assumed trust that users have in the TOS process to make sweeping changes to a user’s rights is both unethical and abusive behavior, not unlike how monopolies treat their users/customers. Facebook is behaving like a company that firmly believes it has a strong enough position with its users to shove just about anything down their throat without much consequence. Does Facebook believe it has a monopoly position in the social web?
    There’s a silver lining here for those of us concerned about the dangerous amount of power that Facebook wields on the social web. By opening up its data to the world, Facebook is at the same time making it a lot easier for competitors to access its users and migrate them to competing services. The value of Facebook is in its data, the fact that it is extremely difficult for users to port their personal information to a competing service, the amount of time spent and regularity of the visits of its members. By opening up the data to search engines and the web, other social networks will now be able to more easily move users to their services along with their data. I believe it is in Facebook’s best interest to remain as closed as possible and keep control of what comes into its kingdom. They already have over 350M+ active users and are still growing double digit year-to-year. Everybody is on Facebook or will be at some point. By opening up to the Internet, it is at risk of morphing into it. Facebook should follow Apple’s model, not Twitter’s. Facebook is an Internet within the Internet that third parties want access to and it should control who/what gets in and when as much as possible, just like Apple does with the iPhone. Facebook’s semi-openness is its biggest asset. Opening up will cause its demise.

  45. Pingback: broadstuff
  46. This decision is full of win, because it increases the amount of amateur porn available to all, not just boyfriends/girlfriends.

  47. I’m a little confused; the whole point of Facebook is to make it easy to find and connect with people and communicate with them easily. That’s pretty tough to do it you keep yourself hidden away. These comments all make it seem like the users forgot that and are treating FB like it should be used for business or secure communications or something.

    Facebook is a SOCIAL tool. Treat it like you’re at a party, sharing stories and cell phone photos.

    Oh, and by the way, FB kept all of my personalized security settings, including hiding me from search engines. People who haven’t taken the time to set their security profile are getting what they deserved.

  48. Ill give my opinion from my experience as an affiliate marketer/
    Jeff Putz got to this blog and post because hes probably inteligent and tech savvy/
    no average Joe is not, and statisticaly half of the people are dumber then he, and hes dumb/
    so jeff ever bought anything from spam in your email or an ad on google ?
    no because your smart but as money on the net says, most people are not.
    theyr ignorant mob. and theyre easy to use and abuse/

  49. This is frustrating.
    There are many Facebook applications for
    the business community, but many C-level
    execs are reluctant to explore. This type
    of deception only makes them write it off as not
    worth the time.

  50. How old are you people? It was a simple process and all my original settings (only friends) showed. What’s the big deal? Y’all are the same people who read the sign on the door that says pull and continue to push at it and cuss because it won’t open.

    You have a typo in your article: “In fact, Facebook’s
    success is largely based on the face that people feel save putting
    their private information on Facebook.” (save should be safe)

  51. I’m deleting my profile, and encouraging my children to do likewise. If they want, they can recreate them with less personal detail, or even with entirely false information. I’ve also dumped my Twitter account – 99.99%+ of everything on twitter is meaningless , useless, vapid crap.

  52. Unethical – YES – Definitely
    Clueless – YES – It would seem so
    Unlucky – NO – They’ve been lucky that it has taken this long for uproar

    I think that Facebook have been wrong too many times on privacy issues now. First they had it setup so that you couldn’t remove your information from their servers (found to be illegal) and then there was the whole Beacon thing in 2007. And now this! When will people realise that this is not a company that it is safe to share your data with.

    I put a post up that expands on these ideas:

  53. This is a bit melodramatic Jason.

    I love that my Facebook posts can now be public. And if I choose, I can make them private too with the simple click. Simple, easy and anyone can understand it. If you don’t get it, that is you and not FB.

    What’s the controversy. This gives you more options and flexibility.
    Kudos to FB for making the change.

    FB did make a change that I hate. When a video or photo is posted, it no longer showes up on the right margin. This is how I kept up with the latest of my friends. I love to see the latest and greatest images of friend’s trips and work. Now, its gone and I wish it would come back. It has taken a lot of the fun out of FB for me.

    Stop whining and inspire us with something positive.

    “Its easy to think in black and white, but life is subtle and, to understand it, you need to see shades of gray” – Unkown

  54. I’ve never trusted FB. I give minimal information away and barely login and contribute to it. I am tempted to ditch it as well. I got my “new settings” page yesterday and I have to agree most users will just click the default radio buttons. There’s something inherently wrong when people don’t trust a company that holds a lot of private information.

  55. I am at a loss to undestand what the fuss is about. Nothing on the internet
    has ever been private and if people expect their posted information to be restricted to only certain viewers, they are in lala land. People should not ever post anything they don’t think the world should know. Discretion is the better part of posting.. no matter where, even in private e-mails. Only financial transactions are protected by encryption with the vendor and even they have been hacked into, although, in most cases, that type of encryption is reliable. Writing on social media is rather like holding a personal conversation on a crowded subway .. don’t expect people within earshot not to listen in.

  56. I went through my wife’s and my Facebook privacy settings.
    They seem to be the same, with only Friends for the important stuf
    stuff, other than Search part.

    My philosophy is to Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS)

    There post was fairly simple, but it did startle people
    including me. It’s best to keep stuff simple, we all lead a
    busy life and having to listen or read long explanations is
    pretty cumbersome.

  57. I still haven’t opened an account with FB, but have been
    tempted in the past to sign up so I can see my friends’ pages.
    If a lot of people open up their page (accidentally or
    otherwise), it will reduce the likelihood of me signing up
    since I can see stuff without joining. Overall, it seems
    like an unnecessary move by them since FB is still growing.

    Main reasons I haven’t joined are that I already waste too
    much time online and also I’d rather get a tiny bit of ad
    revenue for myself rather than let others profit from my

  58. Like others have said (in the comments above), I had no idea that my “personal infomration” was being broadcast out to the whole world. I do know that anything and everything you say on the internet is public and you darn well better not say *anything* that you don’t want to have used against you in a court of law. It is a wonderful social media, but I was 100% clueless about all this “public sharing business. I still don’t fully understand the implications.


  59. Call me clueless or call me crazy, The ‘theys’ know when we go
    to the bathroom in a series of subscription data bases whose
    access is purchased by whomever has the bucks to buy. The main
    most detailed data base, we hope, is controlled by the ‘thems’
    in charge of controling and containing a world population of
    happily clueless humans.
    I have fun on facebook….my settings are restricted (LOL)…
    and I get to have fun and an occasional warm and fuzzy feeling,
    which is more than I get from the other data bases that know my
    stuff. AHHH’freedom’
    PS. not only do they know when you go to the bathroom …yep
    they know the number and the color,

  60. You’ve gotta be kidding. Oh, poor users.
    Why don’t they start reading what they accept?
    I say if you are such an idiot to click through THIS, you totally deserve to have all your private info exposed.

    I don’t support FB on this, all right. But let’s just not be clueless.

  61. Thanks for this excellent post, Jason.
    Good on you for speaking so honestly too.
    My girlfriend is a teacher and had taken a lot of care to keep her profile private.
    Once Facebook made those changes, pupils were able to see all her info and pictures.

    If you make users feel like assets not people, they leave. Simple.

  62. Okay….
    I just think this is the funnies thing, ranting and raving about Facebook.
    Yes, so they “screwed up”. Who cares if they “STOLE” from twitter, what
    social networking site doesn’t try and look like or better then thier competition?

    Secondly, I did my privacy thing when it popped up, nothing was changed at all.
    All my settings we infact the same as when I started up facebook.

    I think everyone is just blowing this way out of proportion.

    But the main thing here is…
    IF your dumb enough to write anything personal or private only, thats your own damn fault.
    I will not write personal stuff about me no matter how safe i think my privacy is on the site.
    I will not do it, and I think if other people were smart enough they wouldnt either, but now
    they have an excuse to be stupid because OHH FB is putting my personal info out..
    Well its your fault your wrote personal stuff in the first place, GET OVER IT!

    THat’s just my opinion though. Everyone has different opinions, I just think everyone
    is overreating.

  63. 1. Is Facebook clueless, unethical or just unlucky? Why?:

    yes, they are unethical, and i believe they are unlucky: reason being they just made this move, and it is being brought up. In black and white, they have made a move that they cannot take back. If some wants to complain, file, or flat out leave facebook, they can. I personally left Facebookdue to the fact that I did not approve of the new terms alont with their CONSTANT “updates”. One day, my layout looks simple and easy, the next, NOT SO EASY. I remember when facebook started out only being a dating/social group for adults and college students. The day I signed on with Facebook, was the day I was accepted into my college. What happened, they created a section/network for high schoolers within a month. I was livid. But, i’ve been facebook free for some 5 months now, and i love it!!! I now have more time for friends and family and actually see who my friends really are, because i hang out with them in person, not over the internet and not over facebook.

    2. Will Facebook’s latest behavior result in more lawsuits and/or
    industry regulation?

    I sure as hope it will, and if it doesn’t I pray there is someone braver than me to step up to facebook in a courtroom and wag their finger at them. Letting facebook know, they did wrong, they did the people wrong, and they will pay with their very wallets, and maybe even some time.

    3. Do you trust Facebook with your information?

    Not anymore, they lost their chances with me months ago when they couldn’t make up their minds on how they wanted facebook to run/look/and feel. Goodbye Facebook. See you in hell.

  64. You people saying others are dumb…are just dumb. You say your settings were the same as before, private.. really?? Go check photo settings, see if THEY are the same, most likely you will find they are set to “everyone”… who is dumb now?

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