When you think about it, Facebook's kind of creepy. Yes, it's brilliant in its core concept as a sharing platform – 400 million users can’t be wrong – but they probably know more about your lifestyle than you’re comfortable with. And when they eventually develop a location-based gaming app like FourSquare, holy moly will they know. (NOTE: The day after I wrote this post, Facebook announced this feature.)
Just remember this – they can only reach as far into your life as you allow it. This is not to say Facebook’s privacy controls are easy. They’re not. In fact, I’ve always thought that their privacy setting interface was designed to favor their database rather than my privacy. It's cumbersome to navigate and you’re never sure whether what you tweak in Account settings carries over to your Privacy settings and Application settings.
I understand that data = gold. But over the past year it seems like Facebook has completely sold out and is now turning their back on the singular reason they exist – people. If the settings really are designed to confuse and confound, then they're going to always win because most people will get frustrated with figuring out how to protect themselves, and just give up. But they’ll still use the service because it’s fun, addictive and for God’s sake you’ve got to know what your friend from High School is doing right now! (For the record, I haven’t connected with anyone from that far back in my past. I really have no desire to return there.)
However, in Facebook’s defense, I’m one of those people who would actually *like* appeals that are designed FOR me (rather than advertisers hurling crap in every direction) – and the only way that can happen on the interwebs is to open up our data for advertisers. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently mentioned how this open data model was a good thing for everyone across the internet because of the idea of personalized appeals and relevant content. I agree. However, he also said he wants Facebook to the be center of the social universe. Yeah, that's a little creepy.
No, I won’t quit Facebook on 31 May, because it helps me share my life with people I like, and I don’t join revolutions just because other people do. Am I comfortable with Facebook managing so much valuable data? Hells no. Frankly, they’re acting like children who hear the ice cream man coming. It's as if they’re rushing to cash in NOW because 400 million accounts may be as good as it ever gets.
Do yourself a favor – take the time to properly configure your privacy settings or else don’t share anything on Facebook that you wouldn't want people outside of Facebook to see. Because as long as you’re openly giving information away in the digital realm, it’s going to end up somewhere. Whether you like it or not.
Jim Mitchem is a father, husband, writer and entrepreneur. He likes baseball and dogs. You can follow him on Twitter @smashadv. And yes, that's him in the image at the top. He refused to pay $20 (minimum) for a decent image on istockphoto.