Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Facebook Privacy Policies Have Litte Impact on Users as the Strategy of the Lowest Common Denominator -- also found in Blogging, Publishing, Academia and the Law - Captures the Mainstream

Privacy concerns about Facebook have few teeth in the absence of laws which impose a stricter regimen on what customer data social networking sites are permitted to make public and what not. As written in a Business Week headline,Facebook Privacy Woes Make Little Impact on Site’s Popularity:
"While privacy is a consideration for users, many are wedded to Facebook’s features, such as messaging, social gaming and running feeds of friends’ status updates. The average user creates 70 pieces of content monthly and is connected to 60 pages, groups and events, according to Facebook."
The strategy of Facebook seems to approximate the same basic philosophy as followed by the major surviving Hollywood film studios, in fact the main reason for their survival, which was a strategy geared to pleasing the lowest common denominator, the same market group that drives mainstream television. Indeed, this strategy is the one which is successful for nearly any "mainstream" direction, including blogging, publishing, academia (academic schools of thought and "peer group pressure", also via "peer review") and yes, even the law (mainstream precedents represent the lowest common denominator, not the highest). To capture a "crowd" you have to pander to that crowd and Facebook is doing this better than anyone else at the moment.

Facebook Privacy Woes Make Little Impact on Site’s Popularity - BusinessWeek

Facebook Privacy Woes Make Little Impact on Site’s Popularity - BusinessWeek

Thursday, May 20, 2010

BBC News - Facebook mulls U-turn on privacy

BBC News - Facebook mulls U-turn on privacy

Peter Thiel, the Stanford Law School Connection to Facebook: PayPal Founder was First Angel Investor in Facebook

What makes a successful company? Money helps.

We were reading up on Facebook
and discovered that the first Angel Investor to invest in Facebook
(in 2004, when Facebook was just a small operation running out of an apartment)
was Peter Thiel,
a 1992 Stanford Law School graduate.

See what is written about Thiel at the Wikipedia.

Can New York University (NYU) take on Harvard, Stanford and Silicon Valley? Diaspora: Anti-Facebook social network site coming soon |

Can New York University (NYU) students take on Harvard, Stanford and Silicon Valley? Take a look Diaspora: Anti-Facebook social network site coming soon |

Diaspora is planned to be an open source alternative to Facebook, the dominant social networking portal which was started at Harvard, and now is headquartered in Silicon Valley in the town of Palo Alto, right next to Stanford University.

As a Stanford Law School alum, we are always great supporters of Silicon Valley tech leadership, but we definitely also support those who are looking for a viable alternative to Facebook, which has quickly become too big for its britches and is running roughshod over the privacy of its users.

We do not think that the open source alternative is going to be serious competition, but that remains to be seen.

UPDATED: By the Numbers: Facebook vs. Zynga

UPDATED: By the Numbers: Facebook vs. Zynga

Facebook Limits Landing Tabs To “Authenticated Pages”

Facebook Limits Landing Tabs To “Authenticated Pages”

Farmville Is More Of A Social Obligation Than A Social Game

Here is an eminently interesting posting about Farmville by Zynga at Social Times:

Farmville Is More Of A Social Obligation Than A Social Game.

I don't play Farmville because I do not have the time for this kind of game, but apparently it does make some people happy.

FarmVille Is The Worst Game Of All Time – I Am Offended By Its Popularity

FarmVille Is The Worst Game Of All Time – I Am Offended By Its Popularity

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Facebook glitch a nightmare for users » Tech Jackal

Facebook glitch a nightmare for users » Tech Jackal

Privacy Rights : Violations at Facebook -- as reported by the New York Times

It seems like a never-ending string of violations of privacy rights by social networking platforms.

Jenna Wortham at the New York Times reports on the newest Facebook incursion on privacy rights at Glitch Brings New Worries About Facebook’s Privacy:
"On Wednesday, users discovered a glitch that gave them access to supposedly private information in the accounts of their Facebook friends, like chat conversations."
The newest "glitch" comes on the heels of previous privacy rights violations at Facebook which suggest that no user should put sensitive information of any kind into the hands of social networking portals. As Wortham writes:
"Over the last few months, Facebook has introduced changes that encourage users to make their photos and other information accessible to anyone on the Internet.... Facebook began prompting users to link information in their profile pages, like their hobbies and hometowns, in a way that makes that information public.

That last change prompted the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group, to file a complaint on Wednesday with the Federal Trade Commission.

“Facebook continues to manipulate the privacy settings of users and its own privacy policy so that it can take personal information provided by users for a limited purpose and make it widely available for commercial purposes,” Marc Rotenberg, the group’s executive director, said in a letter to the commission."
Read the whole article here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Business Week Reports that Facebook Policies Draw Criticism by Consumer Groups

Douglas MacMillan for Bloomberg at in Facebook Policies Draw Criticism by Consumer Groups (Update2, which Adds FTC comment in seventh paragraph) writes:
"Recent changes at Facebook “violate user expectations, diminish user privacy, and contradict Facebook’s own representations,” said Marc Rotenberg, who runs the Electronic Privacy Information Center, one of 15 groups that complained about Facebook in a filing with the Federal Trade Commission late yesterday."
We agree that Facebook Inc. has greatly overstepped permissibile bounds and that new privacy laws in the United States are essential to counteract a stream of negative privacy developments in social networking.

Read the whole posting by MacMillan here.

EFF: Facebook Tries to Make User Use of Aggregating Services Into Criminal Trespassing Violations

At EFF Seeks to Protect Innovation for Social Network Users: Facebook Tries to Make Violations of Terms of Use Into Criminal Violations, the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes:
"The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is urging a federal judge to dismiss Facebook's claims that criminal law is violated when its users opt for an add-on service that helps them aggregate their information from a variety of social networking sites.

"California's computer crime law is aimed at penalizing computer trespassers," said EFF Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick. "Users who choose to give their usernames and passwords to aggregators like Power Ventures are not trespassing. Under Facebook's theory, millions of Californians who disregard or don't read terms of service on the websites they visit could face criminal liability. Also, any Internet company could use this argument as a hammer to prevent its users from easily leaving the service as well as to shut down innovators and competitors."
 Claire Cain Miller, Bits, New York Times, Facebook Is No Friend of
 ... and
Niall Kennedy's Weblog, Facebook v. Power Ventures and Data Portability, Authentication, and Authorization

Essentially, Facebook wants to deny users the ability to use aggregating services to connect to Facebook and to force every user to connect to Facebook only in the manner that Facebook dictates. Pure tyranny.

The more we learn about Facebook, the less we like what we see. Facebook apparently thinks it is permitted to do anything it wants while it attempts to keep its competition from doing anything that might reduce Facebook power. We predict that this philosophy will down the road end in severe legal sanctions against Facebook, who is otherwise trying to run roughshod over user privacy. Suing for trespassing while at the the same time engaging in its own -- what we regard to be criminal -- privacy invasion of its users data has got to take the cake.

What Not to Post on Facebook and Other Social Networks to Protect Your Privacy

In the Los Angeles Times at Internet Security 101: What not to post on Facebook Alex Pham provides us with a list of seven things which, according to Consumer Report, you should "stop doing now" on social networks to protect your privacy.

The Great Exploiter: Facebook Moves from Social Networking to Social Exploitation: How to Opt Out of Facebook Sharing YOUR Personal Data with the Rest of the World in Order to Make Money FOR THEM

At in Facebook to Share Your Information for Money, we discovered that Facebook is beginning to use, indeed, share with the world -- YOUR data -- in order to make money for the company, a practice totally contrary to the original social networking purpose of the Facebook website.

This is an incredible invasion of privacy which takes Facebook totally out of the ranks of "social networking" and into abusive and we think possibly criminal "social exploitation".
You are warned.

Here is how to OPT OUT of having your personal information shared all over the web:

1: Go to your Facebook page
2. Click on "Privacy Settings" under the menu item "Account".
3. Click on "Applications and Web Sites".
4. Find "Instant Personalization Pilot Program" and click on "Edit Setting".
5.Typical for the evil of this feature at Facebook is that the "opt out" statement is in tiny print at the bottom of the page and reads "Allow select partners to instantly personalize their features with my public information when I first arrive on their websites." This is checked with a checkmark by default -- a default which we think should be a per se criminal violation of privacy rights. Uncheck that statement to keep Facebook from using YOU as their meal ticket.

Warning: If your friends decide to share THEIR information and you have not blocked them from sharing YOUR information, then YOUR information can still also be shared with 3rd-party websites by your friends without your intending that sharing.

To cut off that possibility, proceed as follows:

1: Go to your Facebook page
2. Click on “Privacy Settings" under the menu item "Account".”
3. Click on “Applications and Web Sites.”
4. Find "

Dropdown lists that mask the "Only Me" Privacy Option with a "Custom edit" option.

"Applications and Web Sites”

You also have to control all of the check boxes under the various tab headings at the "Account Settings" in the dropdown list under the menu item "Account".

The tab headings are Settings, Networks, Notifications, Mobile, Language, Payments, and Facebook Ads.

Under Settings you will see Name, Username, Email, Password, Linked Accounts, Security Question, Privacy, Account Security, Deactivate Account. Check everything.

Under Networks you can enter a network, which we do not recommend. We have tried it and you merely expose yourself to a great number of people you do not know.

Under Notifications, there are currently no fewer than SEVENTY-TWO check boxes that can be check or unchecked in the following areas (talk about creating confusion pure):
    * Facebook
    * Photos
    * Groups
    * Pages
    * Events
    * Notes
    * Links
    * Video
    * Gifts
    * Help Center
    * Wall Comments
    * Other updates from Facebook
    * Translations
    * Other Applications
Examine these carefully and check only things you really NEED. All of those check-box options are not there for your benefit, rather, they are intended to make things such a mass of confusion so that something beneficial for Facebook will sneak through unnoticed.

IMPORTANT! Another feature of Facebook that is diabolical is that in some cases check marks are effective when made -- i.e. without any other clicking, but in other cases at Facebook, however, even if you make or remove the check marks you still have to SAVE the page in order to save your check mark settings. Notifications is one such page. If you go to the exhausting job of customizing those 72 check-mark settings and then think you have it done, if you do not scroll  this page all the way down to the bottom and click the Save Changes button, it was all for nothing. The checkbox settings then revert to the default setting - with everything checked. There is method in this madness.

Check also everything under the other tabs:

Mobile (you can activate Facebook to send you text messages -- at your risk)
Language (set your Facebook language)
Payments (something we avoid, if possible)
Facebook Ads, which writes as follows (LOOK OUT !!!!!):
"Facebook does not give third party applications or ad networks the right to use your name or picture in ads. If this is allowed in the future, this setting will govern the usage of your information."
If Facebook follows past practice this "allowed in the future" will be a default check mark permitting the use of your name and photo for some advertised product or service unless you opt out. Again, we think this default "opt in" practice would be illegal -- even under current privacy laws -- as an invasion of privacy of the worst kind.

In any case, our first impression of Facebook is being confirmed -- raw social exploitation.

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