Okay but seriously, this time users have been affected so deeply that an official Quit Facebook Day has been instituted, and authorities from both the U.S. and Europe are up in lawsuit-filled arms. Is the social network on its way to becoming a victim of its own success, or are we just being too paranoid?
Mo' Personalization, Mo' Problems
More specifically, it's Facebook's interest in instituting Instant Personalization that's causing so much concern. By default, the platform's new settings give third-party companies access to highly personal user information such as names, friend lists and hobbies, in order to tailor Web experiences to a viewer's interests.
For example, when a Facebook user logs into a partner site, such as Yelp, the content displayed caters to their interests, as well as the activities of friends in their network.
While Web surfing designed specifically for you doesn't sound so bad, the big argument here is that by making these default settings, Facebook is forcing users to unknowingly expose themselves to a handful of invasive outcomes:
- Personal information is shared with third-party sites
- Malware from Facebook advertisements
- Fake profiles
- Facebook friends who unknowingly make themselves vulnerable
"What Facebook is doing is not acceptable, and its attitude is too cavalier," said Web strategist Josh Levy. "I don't want to go back to the horse and buggy days. But I want modernity to be fair."
"Unfair and Deceptive"
Levy's serious about his concerns, and to prove it he started pledgebank.com/leavefacebook, a site that says he'll delete his Facebook account if 10,000 other users do too. So far, a little over 100 people have made the pledge. Another site called Quit Facebook Day has designated May 31st as the official day to delete your account. Currently, the number of users on board is just shy of 3,000.
If all that's not enough seriousness for you, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, along with 14 other privacy and consumer organizations, filed a complaint against Facebook with the Federal Trade Commission, accusing the platform of "unfair and deceptive trade practices" as well as violating users' expectations of privacy and consumer protection laws.
Shut Up and Read
Facebook officials continue to defend the platform, and point out that most users have benefited, or will benefit, from these innovations.
Multi media journalist Luke Appleby is also on defense. "Unless you are sharing your bank account number and password, nuclear weapon plans or terrorist plots, I don't think Facebook, or anyone else, would really care about what you share on Facebook, what your middle name is or where you live," he wrote. "Even advertising companies would only use it for targeted ads, and is that the end of the world? Don't we take similar risks every time we send a letter in the post, make a phone call or talk on a bus?"
The arguments against Facebook are similar to those against Google. Coincidentally, the solution is similar as well. At the end of the day, one fact remains: you can turn Instant Personalization off. You may need weed your way through a policy longer than the Constitution to make that realization, and it may prevent you from participating in the social narrative, but the option is there.
In any case, Facebook is -- at the moment -- sitting pretty with 400 million users, and regardless of polls and sites like Levy's, experts like Augie Ray, a senior analyst at Forrester, don't think Facebook is going anywhere. "Are people really going to leave Facebook and go back to e-mail as a primary source of sharing online? I don't think so," he said. "Facebook will not suffer irreparable harm from continuing to offer Instant Personalization, but they will make their job of earning consumer trust more difficult."