Privacy in the age of Facebook

Facebook F8 Conference

Picture above is Mark Zuckerberg during the Keynote of the Facebook F8 Conference

There have been a number of really interesting and trendsetting changes happening on the Facebook front recently. With this comes the never-ending discussion about Privacy, and who’s responsible for your data. First off I would like to suggest that you read this article by Michael Arrington, founder of the world leading technology news website Techcrunch.

The beautiful thing about the Internet, and more importantly Technology powering the Internet, is that it changes quickly. We are never in a state of constant, there are developers and bloggers out there pushing the limits of what humans can consume and how. The Internet has only been around for a few decades, search engines even less time. And during this time we have seen more changes in the way the world works then ever before in human history. The Internet truly transcends culture and geography and connects us all together as one people. With that said, it still surprises me how little News websites know about the coming changes and what they can do to avoid becoming obsolete. It seems like every site from CNN to the Huffington Post is integrating the recent changes from Facebook. Not because they understand it’s impact necessarily, but because they are scared to get left behind.

The Internet of today is mainly static content linked together with text links and other forms of links. Ranked by relevancy to keywords and phrases, and displayed using search engines. Obviously there is more to the Internet, RSS Feeds, email, etc but this is what the content landscape looks like publicly. Now imagine the Internet of 2012, where every website is integrated with the Facebook platform, all Media has ‘like buttons‘, you get to see what content your friends interacted with on any website that you visit. Everything gets pulled back into Facebook, analyzed, mixed, and then displayed based on it’s relevancy to you using your real life connections. This would change the way the Internet works effectively. I look at Facebook as the new Google, young and hungry to change the world. Sort of like what Google did to Microsoft. Took what they did well, and did it better and brought new offerings to the table on an ongoing basis, constantly changing and evolving.

In the past Facebook Applications were only allowed to be connected to user data for 24 hours at a time, then they had to re-access that data with a server call. This has been changed, to allow Applications and Developers to be connected to the data you allow them to all the time.

Taken from the official Facebook developer Blog:

“We are removing our 24-hour caching restriction which posed a technical burden on developers. This restriction forced applications with millions of users to ping Facebook’s servers millions of times each day to perform basic functions like displaying a user’s name back to them. Most of you had to write special code paths to handle Facebook data. As part of today’s changes, you can store data — only the data users have granted you access to, of course — and more easily write fast, high-quality applications. With the new real-time updates feature, you can also be immediately notified when your users’ information changes, including their profile information, friends, and Wall posts.”

This means more connection to your data more often for longer periods. Which also means privacy issues and security concerns for the end user. Where is this data being used and for what reason? At the end of the day, your data is used to monetize you, based on your likes and interests. I like to give Facebook a decent amount of my personal data as it strengthens my experience with the platform. But I’m also cautious of over-sharing my personal data, and I think you should be too. It’s fine to state where you live and what you like to do on Facebook, but you don’t need to leave your personal phone number or home address if you do not want the world knowing this about you. I think it is fair to say that in 2010 privacy is the responsibility of the end user, read the EULA (or terms of service) and understand them. I agree with Mark Zuckerberg in this regard. (Here is a great tool to help you analyze EULA’s for keywords that may be a risk to your security and privacy).

What do you think about the direction that Facebook is going in? Are you concerned with your personal data on the platform? Let us know in the comments!