Friday, February 5, 2010
What you need to know about the latest Facebook changes
You need to understand important privacy issues involved with the new changes made by Facebook.
New changes to the homepage, announced last night and being rolled out now, have nothing to do with "Facebook turning six," as Napoleonic CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed in the company blog, and as mainstream press eagerly accepted. This has everything to do with money, and threatens our privacy, again.
The Facebook blog post announcing the new changes, changes which have not appeared for most users yet, begins benignly. We are told that the homepage includes one icon for all our notifications, such as if someone likes our post, or commented on a post that we commented on. Great.
The blog post continues that we will see our friends' photos and videos rounded up in a new way, from a menu on the left of the home page. Great.
For some reason, listed last, is a section on games and applications that is three times as long as those other two sections. The news here is that we will be immediately reminded when there is any change or update or activity in the applications or games that we use, that the developers will be able to contact us more easily, and that friends can see what applications and games we have been using from their home pages.
This once again is a matter of Facebook selling our privacy. We don't want every one of our Facebook friends seeing whatever games and applications we've been using. Do you want me to see what dumb apps and games you've been using? If you're a friend of mine, I can. Example: I can see that a friend of mine who loves to rail about how social media is a time waster has been all over the applications What '80s Band Are You? and How Dangerous Are You? I'm not sure he would like me being able to see that. I can see which of my friends are on dating apps, and who's been tending their farms...
Want to spy on what apps your friends are using? Here's the preview of the new changes. Might as well check it out, for your own edification, because people will be able to see what you're doing online.
And any delusion that this comes from a birthday party Facebook is throwing itself is a matter of the mainstream press not following the money. Facebook just made changes to its Live Feed and News Feed. (Those are now tweaked again.) They're not making these new changes for their "birthday party." They're making these changes because the old changes hurt developers, and therefore hurt Facebook's ability to develop ways of making money. Facebook is the TV network, the apps are the TV shows. Facebook wants hit TV shows. That keeps us on the site, sells us products, gets us lookng at ads, and gets us to tell our friends about our farms and mafia wars.
Back in November Facebook began planning these changes, planning how to make apps easier to see. Last month, Facebook began advising developers to harvest our e-mail addresses, which they can keep forever, as a way of retaining our activity in games and applications.
Why is Facebook advising developers to get and keep our e-mail addresses?
This is a major privacy issue, as this excellent blog post from All Facebook, The Unofiicial Facebook Resource, one of the few media vehicles that actually watchdogs Facebook, points out.
But there's another issue here: Time. Facebook is the biggest time suck in the universe: It is the site where we spend the most time online. The other changes to the Facebook home page actually do make Facebook easier and faster to use. That's a good thing.
But updating us every time there is a change in any one of the applications or games that we use, showing us all the apps and games that our friends use, and making it easier for developers to contact us, does not make Facebook easier and quicker to use. It sucks us into the time waste, compromises our privacy again, and is clearly aimed at Facebook and its developers making money.
Facebook will do whatever it wants. The site refused to address the highly unpopular changes to the Live Feed and News Feed months back, only to tweak it in this latest redesign. This is a buyer-beware situation, and Facebook is a free service.
But we pay with our privacy and our time. And it's important for us to realize what Facebook is really doing with its birthday party, and what gifts its harvesting now.
PLEASE walk through your privacy settings by following this post's directions.