Richard McManus and Robert Scoble have been poking around at the edges of this most recent Facebook privacy scandal.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the whole thing in a sentence: If you used Facebook in 2010 or earlier, you may have used your profile wall as a way to message your friends. I didn’t, and no one I know except Robert Scoble did, but that’s what’s being said, apparently.
Richard McManus said: “This is the story that won’t go away, unfortunately for Facebook. Now Robert Scoble has highlighted it. The big question remains though: has anyone yet conclusively proven that these old messages were in fact private messages? Initially I thought that, but in all the cases I’ve seen it has been shown to be old wall posts (hence my post on the matter: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/yes-facebook-this-was-a-privacy-bungle-heres-what-you-shouldve-done.php). If anyone has conclusive evidence, please share it.”
I haven’t seen a single shred of evidence anywhere. And I’ve looked. As usual, this is FB users getting butthurt about change.
That’s to be expected. As I said the other day on NewsDesk with regard to MetroUI, change is scary on a human level.
Privacy on a Social Network: Security via Obscurity
There is no “reasonable expectation of privacy” any time you post something to a social network – ever. Security through obscurity simply doesn’t work – and posting something to a wall that almost no one ever reads doesn’t make sense if you want the data to stay private forever. If the data matters to someone other than the intended recipient, that someone will seek it out.
FB never promised anyone that *any* data posted to the site is secure and private (not legally, anyway), let alone posts to your wall.
What I want or not is irrelevant. Last time I checked, Zuckerberg didn’t ask you or me for business advice. Facebook does what’s good for Facebook – and their track record, as other commentors continue to point out, isn’t that good when it comes to privacy.
But their MO is always the same. They apologize, they pull back a little bit, but at the end of the day, they do what they want, and by brute force change people’s mores about privacy.Through the continual abuse of people’s sensibilities about privacy, Facebook has shown that *they* are the arbitor of privacy. Because users don’t en masse stop using FB, they’ve said they’re OK with it.
Thus, yes, I blame the users. If they really were more than slightly perturbed about this problem, they’d go use Google+, Twitter, or LinkedIn (or WordPress, or Blogger, or a half dozen other tools that basically do what Facebook does yet seem to dodge all the privacy concerns that FB runs up against).
FB has no other currency with the users other than their attention. There is no SLA, real or theoretical. FB will do what it wants with your personal data, and you will accept it (until you stop and punch out of their system).
There is literally nothing you can do about it but shake your fist in impotent rage.
To Be Clear: These Were Public Messages
Robert Scoble did a little digging this afternoon. From his FB feed: “OK, I’ve been talking with Mike Shaver from Facebook https://www.facebook.com/shaverm(engineering director). He reiterated that in every single case that Facebook has looked into that these are all public wall posts that have been shared on the Timeline. He says that the wall message infrastructure and the private message infrastructure is completely different and that there’s no way for private messages to be shared on your timeline because of this separation in engineering infrastructure.”
If you actively use a social network – any social network – you live in public. No one is forcing you to do so, although you do sacrifice certain social and business advantages when you opt out.
You think this is a breach of privacy, though? Wait until next year when thousands of us (myself included) get their Google Glass. Through augmented reality and public social data, I’ll, the moment I see your face, know what you ate for lunch and what your favorite homophobic slurs are to use on YouTube.
In that future world where augmented reality is mainstream, we have to assume that the computers are at finally wearable, and that the augmented reality is persistent and customizable as if it were an instance of Google Maps. The user / wearer gets to choose which skins or reality overlays they walk around and view the world through.
The most obvious theoretical reality overlay would be a Twitter overlay (or future-modern equivalent real time public lifestream) that is easily accessible to those who come in contact with you. We’re seeing glimpses of this reality now, since there is a certain level of transparency with having a Twitter and Facebook account, but I have to wonder if we wouldn’t self-censor ourselves to the point of a psychological repression, for fear of literally wearing our errant thoughts in a scrollable bubble floating eternally above our heads.
Bruce Schneier talked about this all the way back in 2006:
For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that – either now or in the uncertain future – patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable. (…)
This is the loss of freedom we face when our privacy is taken from us. This is life in former East Germany, or life in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. And it’s our future as we allow an ever-intrusive eye into our personal, private lives.
This is our reality. This is our life.
The “SLA” is this: join the singularity and the hive mind – or don’t. If you join, you gain access to a myriad of advantages, and you pay with the documentation of your life.
You can sign that contract, but know this: “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”