Facebook: The Final Privacy Frontier

In what is rapidly becoming the barrier between tech A-lists and the average folk, Facebook’s latest feature rollout (or privacy rollback) is stirring emotions throughout the 400 million member kingdom of Mark Zuckerberg.

By way of charts showing the expanded reach of Facebook content, the terms of service being watered down, and security holes allowing private chats to be viewed by anyone, Facebook has become the sieve of the Internet. Facebook is the digital equivalent of the oil spill in the Gulf; like BP, Facebook claimed to be in control and as users have found out, that was stretching the truth a bit.

The reaction has formed an Anti-Facebook movement of sorts with people looking for alternatives or a way out. Many people prominent in the tech industry have be adamant that now is the time to leave, even if pulling out of Facebook isn’t as simple as one would like.

·      Googlers like Matt Cutts have left.

·      Leo Laporte has deleted his account.

·      Baratune Thurston has decided the best way to deal with Facebook is to reign in his profile and friend lists.

·      Robert Scoble has taken the view that if Facebook wants everything to be public, he’ll open his profile up and only include those things he doesn’t mind being public.

·      Internet entrepreneur Jason Calacanis has issued a direct message to Mark Zuckerberg saying Facebook needs to wake up and grow up on the issues of security and privacy.

This is not the outcry of the average Facebook user who got an account to trade sheep with their friends, these are the bellwether technology folks, the early adopters of exactly this sort of stuff saying they are moving on. The industry insiders and the well informed. It has taken a while but the evolving privacy issues in the State of Facebook have begun to make people reconsider the value of the service.

I liked the newsfeed when it first came out. The newsfeed took information that was already accessible from my friends’ profiles and put it on the front page. I could see their updates without checking each profile individually. Great idea. Taking away the requirement of a college address? It changed the service, by allowing outsiders in. Allowing my picture or pictures of my friends to be used in ads? Getting creepy now.

Each time Facebook has changed to be more public I’ve cut back on what I share. Until recently I didn’t care about movies or books I like being on my profile, but now even those are gone. I’ll admit to anyone that my favorite movies are Empire Strikes Back and Return to Oz, but I don’t want to go to Fandango or IMDB and have that filled in advance because it was in my Facebook profile.

Is Facebook going to fall because of this? No. It has over 400 million users and counting, growing far faster than people are leaving. But Diaspora raised $173,000 as of this writing (they were looking for $10,000) to build an open source social network. It won’t be perfect but it will be an alternative with a spotlight. Back in the day no one thought Facebook could become more popular than MySpace (or AOL even further back in the day). Like Mikey Rourke’s character said in Iron Man 2 “If you can make God bleed people would cease to believe in Him.” 

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