The big difference here is that Facebook will no longer need explicit permission from users to share this data. Users can opt out, rendering existing shared information to be deleted from third party databases. But all of Facebook’s users will automatically be opted into the new program. The social networking site insists that the information won’t be personally identifiable, similar to the way advertisers’ and website publishers’ tracking of our Internet behavior is non-identifiable.
Sound familiar? Facebook’s new sharing methods and seeming disregard for user privacy looks a lot like Beacon, the public sharing program the network used for sharing your profile information with advertisers. Facebook says that the new changes have nothing to do with advertising, but that’s only in the direct sense. Such sharing of so much user information is bound to be monetized one way or another. But that’s not even really the point.
The major issue here is how Facebook interacts with its users, and how it makes the decisions it makes. Last year, after making universal changes regarding the ownership of photo content, Facebook received major backlash and quickly reverted its policy. In response, Facebook then created Facebook Principals towards the democratization of receiving user feedback and making its policy changes a more transparent process.
Another occurrence of deja vu; Facebook used a similar process when rolling out the privacy changes that did effect every single user registered with its service. A few months back, Facebook made more of users’ content public by default, and incorporated several changes to the privacy settings, making it easier to access more information from users.
Again, it’s not necessarily the sharing that matters–it’s the sharing by default instead of that decision being left solely to the user. Despite many users’ requests to opt into the service, Facebook has made no announcements of changing its initial plans to continue with the proposed policy modifications. That makes it seem as though Facebook has an ulterior motive for making user info even more public by default, instead of the changes merely reflecting the ongoing evolution of social media.
Nevertheless, Facebook and others will have to reconsider what they feel is a necessary change versus one that should be left to the user. Communicating those changes, as well as the desire to change, is an important step as social media-sharing becomes more public. That’s because social media-sharing becomes more private as well, with the increasing public access creating a cause for more private sharing mechanisms. Preserving the privacy of the user will continue to be a debated matter, as corporations and individuals clash on what privacy actually means.
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