Wednesday, March 31, 2010

About Facebook and Privacy

This post is a response to a ZDNet article on proposed changes in privacy settings on Facebook, which will basically allow Facebook to proactively share user data with 'pre-approved' third party websites. Put in plain English, this means that they could potentially share your user data without your explicit consent.

I wanted to share about the comments that I saw on ZDnet coming as a reaction to this post. Basically, an older generation of facebook users felt that they would deactivate their accounts, because they are sensitive about privacy in a way the newer generation is not. Others counter-argued saying that the younger generation is smarter and even more sensitive about privacy and security and user control.

Which perspective is true? If you are over 30, and gainfully employed, do you really want anyone (even an anonymous third party site) to know how many hours you spent playing Farmville,  that you believe in God and Fortune Cookies and various other sundry details? And if you are 21, is it OK to do these things anyway, 'cos at your age it's OK to do extreme things?

My take is that privacy and social networking are incompatible, even contradictory concepts; would you expect to be private at an office or college party? Then why expect privacy on a site which serves a similar purpose? Further, when you are using a 'free' service, you are fair game for them to make some money from you. How else would you expect sites like FB to monetize themselves, survive and grow?

So, the bottomline is - use social networking sites wisely, share as little or as much about yourself as you feel comfortable - and always expect that what you share is in the public domain. If you are responsible about your own privacy, no one else can abuse it.