The Facebook Privacy Cycle
All the hullaballoo about privacy on Facebook had a nice little twist when it emerged that the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had allegedly called the very first Facebook users ‘dumb f***s’ when asked by his friend in an IM chat how he managed to get info from over 4,000 Harvard students. The full conversation apparently went as follows:
MZ: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard
MZ: Just ask.
MZ: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS
[Friend]: What? How’d you manage that one?
MZ: People just submitted it.
MZ: I don’t know why.
MZ: They “trust me”
MZ: Dumb f***s
Although most of us have Facebook friends for whom this is a fairly accurate discription, there would have been red faces all round at Facebook head office considering the recent fuss regarding Facebook privacy. The irony of one of Mark Zuckerberg’s private conversations being released into the public domain like this will also not have gone unoticed.
Under intense pressure from the media to respond to the latest Facebook privacy contoversy Mark Zuckerberg has released a statement in which he appears to admit mistakes and has promised to make some privacy changes. It seems that Facebook seriously underestimated the media hysteria that would follow the latest privacy changes, despite similar reactions to previous privacy changes.
High profile bloggers and media figures have made a big show of closing down their Facebook accounts and there have been various articles about how you need to be a rocket scientist to negotiate Facebook’s new privacy settings. There is even a group organising a ‘Quit Facebook Day’ for May 31st which they are promoting via a new website and, erm, Facebook.
Despite all the fuss the simple fact is that fury is almost entirely driven by the media. Whether you think they should care or not, the average Facebook user couldn’t give a monkey’s about the privacy issue. You see one of the main reasons that Facebook works is that people are prepared to give up a little privacy, in fact a fair proportion of them really rather enjoy it. If everybody suddenly jacked up their privacy settings to the maximum it would be a very boring place to visit indeed.
‘Quit Facebook Day’ may well get a few thousand people to deactivate their Facebook account but considering the fact that there are 400 million users, with hundreds of thousands more joining up every month this is a veritable whimper. I suspect that many of the quitters will eventually come back with their tail between their legs when they tire of having to e-mail and text.
It is also inevitable that Facebook will attempt to make more of these privacy changes in the future, that there will be more media outrage and that the average Facebook user will shrug their shoulders and embark on another session of Farmville. This cycle will continue until something better comes along, rather like obseity will continue until they invent a salad that tastes like a double whopper with cheese. In other words, it’s not happening anytime soon.