Facebook Makes an Attempt to Save Face

Facebook has been a hot topic for the last few months and their actions have sparked a lot of debate. Since their f8 conference and subsequent announcements, there have been a number of changes to the social networking site in an effort to “make the world more open and connected.” Unfortunately many Facebook users have found fault in these changes and how they were implemented.

Privacy

Privacy has been at the heart of the concern surrounding Facebook since the very beginning. Over the years, Facebook has updated its privacy policy multiple times. However, these routine updates are not the issue. The complexity and length of the updates are what concern most users. Facebook’s newest privacy policy is now longer than the U.S. constitution. Someone wanting to change his privacy settings now has to navigate through 50 different settings with over 170 different privacy options. Their privacy policy has become a convoluted mess that many users are no longer trying to keep up and even a Facebook board member couldn’t manage his own profile page when his account was hacked. We’re all stuck trying to figure out the latest and greatest changes to their privacy policy and in the mean time, a lot of us are at risk of oversharing.

 

Bait and Switch

Much of the privacy debate surrounding Facebook is the result of what many (myself included) are calling a bait and switch. There are never any guarantees on the internet when it comes to privacy. But when Facebook was first created, it was a very guarded and closed network. I’ve been on Facebook since the very beginning when it was still the facebook.com and it was limited to a dozen college campuses across the country. The privacy settings were so strict that I couldn’t even find my friend from high school because she went to a different college than I did. It was meant to be an open, sharing online environment that was still limited to your physical, trusted network in the real world. Eventually, the privacy walls have eroded to let “outsiders” in but my information was still considered private and only available to those in my trusted network. Now we’ve all had the rug pulled out from underneath us when, overnight, the privacy settings have been changed and the default is now set to share everything and unless we take the time to navigate their tangled web of settings.

Brand Hijacking

Another issue that perhaps deserves more attention among Facebook users is what is being referred to as brand hijacking. With Facebook instituting the new instant personalization and community pages, businesses and organizations are being given dummy Facebook pages with little to no control over them. When the new instant personalization was rolled out, users were prompted with the option to opt-in which would link the information in their profile to all sorts of these pages, many of which were being created on the spot by Facebook. If a user chose to opt-out, the information was then removed from their page all together.

Here’s an example of the mess being created. I did a search for my high school and there are dozens of pages that come up on Facebook. I can’t give you an exact amount because the number changes constantly. I can tell you that all but a small handful of these pages are blank dummy pages that all have the same content: random messages and posts that have been pulled arbitrarily by Facebook because they mention the same keywords. And of the few that actually have meaningful content, I can’t tell which, if any of them, are sponsored or moderated by the school. It seems like Facebook is creating a page for anything and everything and sharing the most benign things with the world by creating community pages for them. These community pages and instant personalization features have created a marketing nightmare for businesses and organizations.

Lack of Concern

All of the changes going on at Facebook have sparked all sorts of debate and discussion online. Many users are to the point of deleting their accounts which has prompted how do I delete my facebook account to be among the most common searches on Google. Unfortunately, it seems that most of the discussion has been one-sided with blog posts like An Open Letter to Facebook but no response from Facebook. Many are voicing their opinions but it seems those opinions are being directed at a brick wall. Because Facebook hasn’t seemed to address its users concerns, those users are beginning to feel like they don’t matter. This feeling of not being heard is prompting all sorts of protests and boycotts and pledges to all together quit the site.

The Good News

It seems that Facebook is finally listening. This weekend CEO Mark Zuckerberg was quoted in the Washington Post saying “we just missed the mark.” There has also been an email conversation between Zuckerberg and blogger Robert Scoble that has been posted on Scoble’s blog (with Zuckerberg’s permission) where Zuckerberg says they’ve “made a lot of mistakes” and he wants to “get this stuff right this time.” It may have taken a while but it seems that we’ve finally got Facebook’s attention and our voices are finally being heard. Whether or not that leads to any real change or remedy to the number of complaints being voiced remains to be seen. But it appears we may be heading in the right direction.

Just today Facebook announced more changes to the privacy policy. Zuckerberg announced these changes while reminding users that they are listening and “we are far from perfect.” Some highlights of the new policy, which will roll out in the next few weeks, include “a single control for your content, more powerful controls for your basic information and an easy control to turn off all applications.” To read the full announcement from Zuckerberg, click here.

Along with the changes in privacy, it seems that Facebook has adjusted its attitude. Zuckerberg ended his statement with, “If you have any questions or comments, let us know. We’re listening.” While I appreciate the general sentiment, it remains to be seen if they have selective hearing. The privacy issue has been the biggest issue thus far, but it has not been the only issue users have with all of the new changes to Facebook. At this point, there are other problems that have been expressed by users that have not yet been addressed by Facebook. Maybe this is only the first step and the rest will follow… Maybe not. Only time will tell. If today’s announcement is not enough for you, maybe it’s time to look for alternatives to Facebook. There has been a rise in impersonators and those wishing to step in where Facebook has fallen behind.

So what do you think? Is today’s announcement enough? Does this make up for their previous mistakes or do they still have more work to do?

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