Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


The Facebook Privacy Scandal

It’s only with the understanding that privacy has many meanings that I can comprehend people on Facebook complaining about privacy. (People interested in this should read Alessandro Acquisti’s work.)

That’s not what I wanted to post about. What I wanted to post about was the great way the CEO of Facebook took the wind out of the story:

Somehow we missed this point with Feed and we didn’t build in the proper privacy controls right away. This was a big mistake on our part, and I’m sorry for it. But apologizing isn’t enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly. So we have been coding nonstop for two days to get you better privacy controls. This new privacy page will allow you to choose which types of stories go into your Mini-Feed and your friends’ News Feeds, and it also lists the type of actions Facebook will never let any other person know about. If you have more comments, please send them over.

An Open Letter from Mark Zuckerberg,” via VentureBeat, “Facebook responds, bolsters privacy options for ‘feed’ features.” Compare and contrast:

“Let me begin by offering an apology on behalf of our company and my own personal apology to those consumers whose information may have been accessed by the criminals whose fraudulent activity ChoicePoint failed to prevent.” Smith said.

There’s also some really good analysis by Danah Boyd, “Facebook’s ‘Privacy Trainwreck:’ Exposure, Invasion, and Drama,” to which Boingboing linked.

4 comments on "The Facebook Privacy Scandal"

  • You really don’t understand?
    There is a difference between posting information on a website, and having the organization running that website doing a detailed analysis of everything you post and then alerting all of your friends whenever something significant changes.
    Increasingly we are moving from the old-style privacy regime, where information is private if you can keep it private, to the new-style regime, where “privacy” is relevant to how much analysis, post-processing, and releasing of that post-processing is done.
    Gary Marx wrote an interesting article about this back in 1998. I can post a link, if you want.

  • Mosuki says:

    Danah Boyd is right. Privacy and security can’t be encapsulated in a single bit. And some of us do get it. Mosuki has built a system that can distinguish between friends and acquaintances and which provides feeds of activity in your social network, while still respecting a user’s privacy and not broadcasting actions that should not be broadcast.
    Technology is not just about providing better features, it’s also about providing a safe and comfortable experience for the user. Airbags don’t make cars drive better, but they are an advancement in car technology. The future of social networks is to enable information to be shared between users without giving up their right to privacy and ultimately safety.

  • roger says:

    Interesting, but chilling movielink:
    I was told about the web-site, honest. I don’t really know anything about…

  • Adam says:

    I don’t honestly know if I understand or not. It seems to me that if you put all sorts of private data under someone else’s control, you should expect that to come back and hurt you.
    At the same time, I can see new features, opted-in, causing an outcry.
    Overall, I think most people’s privacy analysis is fragmented and, umm, easily critiqued.
    Please, post a link to Gary’s article.

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