Facebook, Google, and Privacy

So, Facebook “hired Burson-Marsteller, a top public-relations firm, to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy.” I am rather late to the party in using that quote from Dan Lyons at the Daily Beast.

But I can’t resist jumping on this rather lovely insight into how low Facebook will stoop. And I can’t resist adding further quotes, this time from Michael Arrington’s account of the story:

  • “it’s not an exaggeration to say they’re changing the world’s notions on what privacy is.” They are Facebook. I hope that they are not changing the world’s notion of privacy. But they are certainly demonstrating how much of it people are willing to trade for being part of a large online herd.
  • “secretly paying a PR firm to pitch bloggers on stories going after Google, even offering to help write those stories and then get them published elsewhere, is not just offensive, dishonest and cowardly. It’s also really, really dumb.” Yes, and that’s the feel-good aspect of the story: the stupidity of Facebook.
  • “Google is probably engaging in some somewhat borderline behavior by scraping Facebook content… But many people argue… that the key data, the social graph, really should belong to the users, not Facebook.” Yes it should. But Facebook users should by now understand that they are the product, not the customer.
  • “Does anyone not see the irony of having to sign in via Facebook to leave a comment on this Techcrunch article?” That’s the first comment on Michael’s article (as of right now), and several other comments make a similar point. If TechCrunch knows Facebook to be dishonest, cowardly, and dumb, why is it inflicting Facebook’s comment system on the TC community?

Build-a-Bear Builds its Database

Build-a-Bear Workshop is cutting-edge as well as cuddly. I previously remarked on it as an example of mass customization.

Now we see that BaB is treading that line between gathering information and invading privacy. Denise Howell (lawyer and blogger, via BB Cory) describes the process of getting a birth certificate for a new-built bear.

Before their new friend can get its birth certificate, the kids are prompted to enter a host of very personal personal information: birth date, home address, gender, phone, and email among them.

Denise saw parent after parent helping their kids provide this information, some of them “the same parents driving themselves to distraction with fear over their evening chardonnays about MySpace and FaceBook.” Picking up on that Facebook reference, it seems that the Bear can be more seductive than the Beacon.

Collective Noun for Privacy Groups

Collective nouns are fun: an exaltation of larks, etc. I wasn’t aware of the collective nouns for privacy groups until today, when I read about a complaint of privacy groups. Yes, it does come in the context of a Facebook story.

My own contribution to the collective of collective nouns is: a wunch of bankers. Some would describe me as part of the pomposity of professors.

Privacy No Longer Can Mean Anonymity

I don’t think that the message in the title is meant to be satirical. Apparently “top intelligence official” Donald Kerr is serious. Maybe intelligence doesn’t mean what it used to either.

I saw this story at Yahoo News via Reddit. Pamela Hess of AP joins other journalists impressive for their deadpan delivery and chances of making it as a satirist.

Facebook, Ads, and Privacy

Within hours of Facebook’s announcement of its social advertising plans, the backlash began. More recently, there have been posts such as Facebook’s Cruel Intentions and The Daily Poll: Are Facebook Beacon Ads Illegal?

Only about one in five of respondents to the poll consider the ads both legal and respectable. Now, there are good reasons for treating the results of that poll less seriously than those of , for example, the comScore Radiohead report. But, to put it mildly, there does seem to be cause for concern for Facebook and its users.

So, let’s sign on to Facebook, for the first time in weeks in my case! Let’s take a look at our privacy page and see what options it gives us relative to ads. I don’t see any. Let’s search the page. There we are! Oh, it’s a link at the foot of the page in case I want to run ads on Facebook.

Maybe there’s some information about ads on the Privacy and Security help page? No.

One of the ways in which Facebook might address the privacy-focused backlash against its ad network would be to make it easy for users to find information and options about the use of their data in ads.