As something of a Facebook skeptic (at least when it comes to a personal account), this handy inforgraphic lays out the history of problems with the social network. Interestingly, it was the failure of others, such as Friendster and MySpace that paved the way for Facebook’s success. So in spite of getting it wrong on a regular basis, the rise and rise of Facebook continues. Never mind the privacy, its the functionality that counts.
Earlier this year I felt it necessary to explain why I’m not on Facebook (and no, I’ve never been to a McDonalds either). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against social media as such (look, I blog), but I outlined my reasons pretty clearly. I was also trying to avoid seeing The Social Network film, however, I finally went to see it this weekend (yes, I’m probably the last person to get around to it). It’s not a bad film, but it confirmed to me all the reasons why I don’t do the Facebook thing. The film confirmed most of the things on my list or reasons – they talk about writing in ink on the internet, I talk about the internet not forgetting – and my prime reason for not being on it, is the cliquiness. The whole concept of FB was about cliques, both preserving and creating them. So there you have it, I don’t do Facebook and as yet I have no compelling reason to do so (nor go to a McDonalds for that matter).
I‘ve blogged a lot about privacy and social media. Certainly when it comes to marketing through mobile social media, then what others know about you is a major issue. You only have to look at the furore over Openbook and pleaserobme.com to see what a sensitive subject it is. In a recent DMA newsletter I wrote a piece on how surprised I was that I could see the email addresses and phone numbers of ‘friends’ who I didn’t know (not to mention their houses conveniently shown on the map). It seems that Foursquare is beginning to address the issue. In a recent blog, Foursquare announced that they are changing the settings to make users more aware of what they are sharing with the rest of the world. The neat part is a privacy grid which shows exactly what you are sharing (or not).
I think this kind of clarity is key to the success of location-based social media. With rumours that Facebook are due to launch their location service very soon, it makes sense for Foursquare to get ahead on the privacy stakes. FB seems to take an approach of changing privacy settings and waiting until users complain before changing them again! Eric Schmidt of Google was quoted in The Wall Street Journal, as saying that people should change their names when they reach adulthood to avoid youthful indiscretions sitting on social media sites. That’s one solution I suppose, but I have argued that social media sites have a duty to act responsibly and warn users about what they are getting in to in terms of the information that they share. It looks like Foursquare have taken the initiative on this.
Facebook‘s ‘Posts by everyone’ feature has been taken up by a new site, Openbook, and shows how much people are prepared to (over) share. The feeds are full of people stating how they cheated in exams and took drugs. Not exactly a job reference.
One could argue that this isn’t Facebook’s fault, after all users are both responsible for what they post and can manage their own privacy settings. The ‘over-sharers’, as I call them, aren’t just on FB, Twitter and FourSquare have the same types in their own way. Why do people do it? I suspect there are two reasons: firstly, a few people just don’t realise and secondly, the rest are showing off to their mates and the rest of the world. You could argue that the second category deserve everything they get, but I don’t always feel that is the case.
Last week a man in the UK was arrested, had his computer equipment seized and was fined for a Tweet threatening to do serious damage to an airport after his flight had been canceled yet again (volcano rage). His Tweet may have been ill advised, but I can understand someone seeing red and just loosing it. It was pretty obvious that he didn’t actually mean what he said, but in this paranoid society we live in you have to take care.
I believe that social media sites have a far greater responsibility to take care of their members privacy than they do. It goes beyond offering settings options. These options should default to the most secure. Certain posts should be filtered … if Openbook can pick on people admitting to cheat in their exams, how hard would it be to have a message along the lines of ‘do you really want to post this update?’, before they click the button?
However Facebook have a difficult path to tread. If they are to realise value from their site, then they need to offer advertisers more and more options for targeting customers. From that perspective, the ‘post to everyone’ feature is advertising gold. The flip side, however, is that as privacy concerns increase, more users will leave the social networking site.
From a mobile perspective the issue is significant. We have already seen security issues with FourSqaure, and with FB adding location into it’s settings these issues will significantly grow.