Saturday, April 24, 2010

Is Facebook the New “Evil Empire”?

Years ago, when Microsoft was rising as a powerful software company, my office colleagues used to refer to it as “The Evil Empire” as it seemed that Microsoft wanted its hands in everything people did on a computer. Much later, the focus changed to Google, who became the new Evil Empire as it seemed they want to Google-ize everything people did on a computer, but Google was more stealth-like about it than Microsoft. We all figured that one day Google would try to get its hands on every little bit of our lives. Even Google must have sensed this, as they adopted a motto “don’t be evil.” Over the years I’ve softened quite a bit on Google, after seeing some of the really interesting things they’ve made available for free, like blogs, maps with street view, books on line, to name just a few. OK, they took a swing and missed with Google Buzz, a nightmare when it came to people wanting to be connected, yet protecting their privacy from the masses. But I can understand Google wanting to jump on the social media bandwagon. And in case your wondering, Apple is getting close to crossing over to the evil dark side, acting like greedy control freaks who want people (now called iSheep) to buy every new iToy they sell, just so the iSheep can buy stuff like movies and music and books to run on the hot iToy of the day. Apple is all about selling you their stuff so you can consume (and buy) more stuff.

So who is the new evil empire of the moment? Facebook. I have several Facebook accounts, setting them up long ago when Facebook was still a small fry. I thought it would be nice to have a few Facebook accounts just in case I would find a need for them in the future. I never did find that need. In fact, I realized that - after being reluctant about Twitter at first - that Twitter fit my needs better as I like to get – and give – information in quick “bursts” without having to wade through several web sites or too much data. Recent privacy concerns with Facebook makes me like it even less, and I am becoming more convinced that they are new Evil Empire.

PC World published an article titled ” Facebook's New Features and Your Privacy: What You Need To Know.” It is an interesting look into the increasingly complex and almost sinister (translate: evil) changes with Facebook as its tentacles wrap tighter and tighter onto not just the information you post on Facebook, but also on third party sites you may visit, and making public things that you like, not only to your friends, but friends of friends. Let me be blunt here: friends of friends should translate to the word “strangers” because that’s who they likely are. In this day of people wanting to protect their identity, why on earth are people being so casual about what information they spew out to strangers?

There are ways you can “opt out” of some of these things, but unless you know where to look to make that fix, you may be unwittingly sharing information that you really didn’t want broadcast to the world. I have never liked “opt-out” policies, thinking that certain changes should be “opt-in.” I suppose since Facebook is free, technically they can do whatever they want with the information you put on their site. It’s the collecting of data and information from other sites that rubs me the wrong way, and the fact that Facebook is becoming too cavalier with members' information.

Now that Facebook is the apparent designated social media site for the masses and has millions in its grip, it’s time for them to find ways to tighten its grasp. For me, I have turned off many of their applications that would even remotely share any data about what I do. If you have a Facebook account, I urge you to read the PC World article I mentioned above and then take a look at what you have on your Facebook account and what Facebook is sharing with strangers about YOU, and make changes as needed. Facebook can only do evil things to you and your information if you let them

Reference: ”PC World Facebook's New Features and Your Privacy: What You Need To Know.”

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to a chart on the NY Times that shows how complicated things can get with Facebook: