The F8 conference has ended, and Facebook has started making changes and setting the stage for the announced spread through the entire Internet. They might not put it like that, but nobody can doubt their intent.
To allow for that goal to be met, Facebook has started changing privacy options in users’ profiles. Personal information like current city, hometown, education and work, likes and interests will now become “connections”, and as such, they will be made public. Users are not asked for permission, because the changes are “opt-out”.
Of course, Facebook says that users will be notified of the changes – and they have been. The only problem in this is that a great part of the users will not understand the implications of the changes, scroll through them without paying attention, or even skip the whole explanation altogether because it’s just to complicated and too long and keep using the service as they have been doing so far, not knowing that information that they thought was private and accessible only to their “friends”, is now accessible to anyone.
Facebook doesn’t care about it – if it did, it wouldn’t carry on like this. They have washed their hands of any responsibility by releasing the announcements, and it will be free to offer its users’ data to an ever increasing number of companies – and get paid for it. As Molly Woods says: “I hold few illusions that Facebook’s business strategy has ever been about anything other than building up a huge user base and then selling ads to those users.” Deep down inside, we all knew it. There is no such thing as a free service. Either way, we have to pay – if not with money, then with information.
And maybe some people genuinely wouldn’t mind doing it, were it not for the way this changes are carried out: “opt-out” instead of “opt-in”. And, it seems likely that all future changes that could stand between Facebook and more revenue will be carried out in this way.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a solution for everyone that wants this information to remain private: delete it from your account. Or, set up a new account and tell Facebook you’re under 18 – under its policy for minors, you information is protected and visible only to friends and family and verified networks.
I might add – there is always the option of deleting your account and not making another one. And I wonder: how many people have had the same thought?