Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In Your Face (Book)

    What's going on over at Facebook?  The social media giant is caught up in another very public dispute over privacy.  Last week, the Facebook gang announced a new "tweak" giving app developers access to users' home addresses and phone numbers.  Not surprisingly, a lot of people didn't like that.  And it isn't the first time Facebook fans have gone bonkers about changes to security settings.

      Just days after announcing the new policy, Facebook says it received some "useful" feedback.  As a result, the company has disabled this new feature.  And the company is promising to make changes so users will clearly understand when they're being asked to share phone numbers and addresses- and can opt out.

     From a PR standpoint it seems Facebook is somewhat tone deaf when it comes to the debate over individual privacy.  The company has been blasted repeatedly.  Critics claim Facebook has had confusing settings- that make it hard for users to protect personal data.  And there have also been repeated policy changes concerning how Facebook handles with our info.

     Obviously, Facebook is the 800 pound gorilla when it comes to social media.  So it's in a position to make its own rules.  To the casual observer it might appear the company is determined to leverage information about its users to somehow make a profit.  Why else would Facebook keep fiddling with these privacy settings- risking repeated public relations blow-ups?

     But wait a minute here.  Maybe there really are very good reasons for changes to those security settings.  But if that's the case, why does Facebook keep making changes without making it easy for users to understand what's happening?  I think Facebook needs to be more sensitive to security concerns- especially when you think about how we're all worried our personal information might disappear into the gaping maw of the internet beast.

     It wasn't that long ago that MySpace was a major presence in the social networking landscape. If Facebook continues to irritate its customers- those users might decide to "unlike" and unlink from Facebook.  What do you think?  Why is Facebook having so many PR flare-ups about this issue?  One thing is for sure- with the internet things sure change quickly.  And before long- the worldwide obsession with Facebook could change too.

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