It won’t have gone un-noticed to any readers of this blog that I’ve been quite impressed at Google+ – what it can do, and more important what it could be possible of doing to our use of social networks. I’m particularly impressed at the implied movement away from the “social graph” to what has been described as the “interest graph” and the focus on task-related posting rather than people-focussed posting. In fact the demise of Google+ which has been trumpeted by the tech media press is almost certainly the result of posts disappearing from the “public stream” with more selective posting to Circles. A success story therefore you might argue for anyone who values their privacy.
Copying is said to be an indication of success too, and we’ve seen a “re-launch” of Posterous, trumpeting a feature that was always there which looks very similar to Circles, and of course there’s been the changes to Facebook. These have been thick and fast over the past few weeks, culminating in the announcements last week. First of all, I have to hold my hand-up … I’m not a great, nor active, Facebook user. It’s just too complicated to get the privacy controls correct, and as they keep on changing things, there’s just that nagging doubt always present in my mind that I might inadvertently be sharing something with people I don’t want to share with. So what goes on Facebook (from me) is generally of little interest to my “followers”, or it is factual and not likely to cause me any concern. But all that’s just changed because Facebook wants to change “the social network”, hold even more information about you – which you can’t get out without deleting your account, and wants to share that information with even more people that you don’t want to share it with.
Every time Facebook changes the timeline, or your profile, or whatever, a groundswell of complaint can be heard “from those in the know”. Of course Facebook probably doesn’t care about them (us) anyway – they’re more interested in the information they’ve trapped inside the Facebook firewall provided by the far greater number of users who don’t know, or who prefer not to know, what they’re doing. However, this time there’s been an up-welling of comment that beats most previous announcements and I thought I’d share some of that comment with you.
First of all take a look at the summary of features listed here. [If you want a sickening few minutes (you won’t want to stay to the end) watch the video of Mark Zuckerburg’s launch address.] “Is Facebook trying to kill privacy” – well yes it is, and this is seen by their view that “the social graph” should be open, so that everything you do can be made visible to just about anyone – read a review from Wired here. All those apps that you’ve allowed access to your Facebook profile, well now they will be following you, and what you do, even though you’ve not given them permission to do so – read Phil Bradley’s excellent post here, and as he and others have commented – it’s shameful that The Guardian has signed-up to this invasion of our private lives, and I’ll be even more worried if The Independent follows suit.
Two more links I ought to share with you as well are this one, detailing how the social reading apps will work, and this one which gives very wise advice – never leave your browser logged into Facebook, the cookies may be tracking everything you do.
[UPDATE: The storm doesn’t seem to be abating – @briankelly this morning (26/09/2011) tackles some of us who were tweeting that Fb is a walled garden with a riposte that suggests Russell Group (and presumably all Universities) can not afford to ignore it as there are so many fans using Fb Groups and suggests its not a walled garden anyway. However, my doubts are beginning to firm up even more and you ought to read “Facebook’s New Features Might Not Be as Private as You Think” and some of the comments that follow to help you come to your own conclusions.]
So … I’ll be reviewing my applications on Facebook again. I won’t be taking any of the new features and if I’m forced to change I’ll be deleting my account. My “followers” will always be able to find me on Google+ where I can then decide whether I want to follow them, or more importantly, post updates to them. I suspect The Force will remain undisturbed by any actions I take!