I usually don’t like to post rants, but once again (and this is the reason for the “sigh” – the type of sigh that perhaps a parent gives a child for repeating the same thing to continually get in trouble), Facebook has forced upon their users “enhancements” that open up privacy concerns. This time though, US senators are weighing in. Now I usually do not have much faith in any government body to speak to technology issues adequately, but in this case, they echo the concerns many folks have. What I would hate to see though is government feeling the need to legislate regulations; instead technology companies should exercise some self policing and check themselves before doing something that their audience, or a good portion thereof, may take exception to.
So a couple of simple things that could have helped Facebook, had they thought of them, regarding these personalized site experiences that they are piloting.
1. It’s a pilot. Pilot programs do not place 100% of their users into the program, especially without their consent.
2. Any feature add that has the potential to broaden exposure of someone’s data needs to be OPT-IN. If the feature is that good, those people who want it will opt-in. Others simply don’t need to do anything and feel like nothing is being forced upon them. Let the features sell themselves.
There are plenty of privacy controls in Facebook, but in this case the opt-out process is multi-step and may not be all that intuitive for everyday users. As they add more partner sites with their respective applications, will one need to opt-out of each one individually? That would become quickly unmanageable.
Hopefully Facebook will slow down a bit, think about first, then execute their moves on their own – before others that we or they may not want to – do it for them.