How Private is Facebook?

Facebook is not private – at least not for the most part.  That’s exactly the point.  The company should make it easier for users to control their privacy settings, that goes without saying.  Nevertheless, Facebook has been up front and honest about its intent to make information widely available and connect people online.  If you use the service, you should be aware of that before signing up, or at least before providing a lot of personal information.

Today, Mark Zuckerberg offering the following op-ed in The Washington Post:

Six years ago, we built Facebook around a few simple ideas. People want to share and stay connected with their friends and the people around them. If we give people control over what they share, they will want to share more. If people share more, the world will become more open and connected. And a world that’s more open and connected is a better world. These are still our core principles today.

Facebook has been growing quickly. It has become a community of more than 400 million people in just a few years. It’s a challenge to keep that many people satisfied over time, so we move quickly to serve that community with new ways to connect with the social Web and each other. Sometimes we move too fast — and after listening to recent concerns, we’re responding.

The challenge is how a network like ours facilitates sharing and innovation, offers control and choice, and makes this experience easy for everyone. These are issues we think about all the time. Whenever we make a change, we try to apply the lessons we’ve learned along the way. The biggest message we have heard recently is that people want easier control over their information. Simply put, many of you thought our controls were too complex. Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark.

We have heard the feedback. There needs to be a simpler way to control your information. In the coming weeks, we will add privacy controls that are much simpler to use. We will also give you an easy way to turn off all third-party services. We are working hard to make these changes available as soon as possible. We hope you’ll be pleased with the result of our work and, as always, we’ll be eager to get your feedback.

We have also heard that some people don’t understand how their personal information is used and worry that it is shared in ways they don’t want. I’d like to clear that up now. Many people choose to make some of their information visible to everyone so people they know can find them on Facebook. We already offer controls to limit the visibility of that information and we intend to make them even stronger.

Here are the principles under which Facebook operates:

— You have control over how your information is shared.

— We do not share your personal information with people or services you don’t want.

— We do not give advertisers access to your personal information.

— We do not and never will sell any of your information to anyone.

— We will always keep Facebook a free service for everyone.

Facebook has evolved from a simple dorm-room project to a global social network connecting millions of people. We will keep building, we will keep listening and we will continue to have a dialogue with everyone who cares enough about Facebook to share their ideas. And we will keep focused on achieving our mission of giving people the power to share and making the world more open and connected.

The writer is founder and chief executive of Facebook. Washington Post Chairman Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.

Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook (Source: The Washington Post)

Later in the day, a Washington Post columnist blasted Zuckerberg for not apologizing, and it seems, also blasted Washington Post Chairman Donald E. Graham for being a part of Facebook’s board even after the privacy issues.  Oh my!  Graham should not have to resign because of concerns that Facebook is already addressing. If anything, Graham’s connection to Facebook gave Zuckerberg the impetus to write his op-ed in The Washington Post, a clear bonus for the newspaper (aka the columnist’s employer).

I almost hate to say it, but Facebook is the way of the future.  It’s exponential growth clearly shows that.  At almost 500 million users, Facebook is the equivalent of the third largest country in the world (after China and India)!  This presents fantastic business, marketing, and data opportunities.  Hopefully, these will be taken advantage of in a manner that favors Facebook’s users/consumers.

Betty White may be correct in saying that Facebook is a waste of time.  Nevertheless, it is a time waster that seems to take up a lot of my life, and possible yours as well.  Rather than becoming angry about it, let Facebook know – and also be aware of what you post online.  Far too often we post without thinking.  Zuckerberg has been clear so far about his intentions and he likely will stay that way.  Remember that when you consider your privacy settings and your posting decisions.

About Joel Portman
Network Builder. Diversity and Inclusion Advocate. Social Media Enthusiast. Lover of family, friends, the outdoors, travel, and learning. I have experience working in the healthcare, education, diversity/inclusion, retail, and non-profit industries with organizations ranging in size from five people to Fortune 500. I am an MBA graduate of the University of Denver.

One Response to How Private is Facebook?

  1. Pingback: 2010 in Review « Joel Portman

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