SMCSF: Facebook “ The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Tonight Social Media Club South Florida hosted a meet up at Beber Silverstein Group (If you ever get a chance to “look behind the bubbles” at their office you totally should. Very cool space.) to discuss “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” of Facebook. Panelists included Matthew Chamberlin, Patrick Barbanes, William Plasencia, Niala Boodhoo and Gary Bahadur.

There was a great balance of input from the panelists and the crowd and while there was the good intention of starting out with the benefits of Facebook for small and large businesses (Will cited Latin Burger as a great local example), the conversation quickly turned into a debate about Facebook’s ever evolving “privacy” philosophy and who has what responsibilities when it comes to protecting users.

The crowd seemed to mostly agree that it is up to users to read and understand Facebook’s terms of service and that they should expect that there would be some “cost” to using a free social network, whether that comes in the form of interruption marketing from ads, brand fan pages, or a loss of privacy.

There were some people who rallied behind Patrick Barbanes’ idea that it is not only Facebook’s responsibility to educate its less internet savvy users on their policies, but the internet savvy “uber users” responsibility to champion change when Facebook’s infringes on what we perceive to be our rights.

While the debate was interesting I think it lacked the proper framing. What does it mean to maintain “privacy” on the social web? Are our expectations of what privacy means on the web different than what we expect in the offline world? Who gets to decide what level of privacy we can achieve on the web and is that truly debatable when we don’t own our own data or our social connections?

These questions span the entire social web, not just Facebook. However, what is most unsettling about Facebook’s recent moves is that they are deciding the answers to these big questions without even pretending to gather user input first. And why would we expect them to? With a CEO that doesn’t care about privacy and an unabashed commitment to pursuing the business model over the user experience, Facebook has made it quite clear what their intentions and priorities are.

So what recourse do we have as users? I agree with the every man for themselves approach. As technology and connectivity invade even more facets of our lives, it will no longer be acceptable for people to cite inexperience, age, or apathy as reasons for their missteps online. The revolution of the educated user starts now. Understand what you are committing to when you post information online, understand that networks evolve and change (and so will your commitments), and know your “walking away” point.

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