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Hey Facebook, What About Our Privacy?

The recent introduction of its graphing tool is a throwback to the days of cyber-stalking

Facebook has recently launched its graphic tools and this is exposing user's weak privacy settings spilling their content unwittingly back into the public domain. This article discussed Facebook's attitude to user privacy and how users react.

Grace Hopper once wrote that is was “easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission.” This seems to me to be the corporate mantra of Facebook Inc. And they've done it again with their new graphing feature.

When Facebook really started to take off back in the early 2000s privacy wasn't a concern or issue to either users or providers. This new style of sharing became the new normal and people were happy to post all sorts of private content on the web. That was until they figured out that everyone, stalkers and all, could gawk at their privates.

It took Facebook a long time to segment users into categories and there was a major obstacle to present some sort of security settings based on each group. The forced capitulation was quite simple – user group pressure. Early Facebookers were the Millennials. They quickly worked out, after a few embarrassing moments, that they didn't want mom and dad to see the same postings, pictures and comments that they shared with their other 20-something friends or of greater severity where employers have terminated users based on their Facebooks postings. This was an obvious and necessary evolution.

Users then became quite adept as closing down their profiles so their admirers, strangers and prospective employers couldn't have a window into their life. But Facebook made this intentionally cumbersome and difficult to use and security around groups even more so. It's easy to understand Facebook's reluctance. Stalking, browsing and just glimpsing into friends of friends or voyeuristic peeks into total random strangers was not only fun, but keeping active users on the site.

But here's the thing Facebook, users always win – always !! Internet users today are much much more savvy, particular and picky about where their content goes. Instagram, owned by Facebook, tried to dupe it's user with a bait & switch on it's terms of use, remember who won ? Those young Facebook users have already all but abandoned their profiles. They are using things like snapchat – which protects your digitals. Even sharing one on one, they are ensuring those shared moments are just that, about 3 seconds. This is the new shelf life of openness and sharing.

It seems though that Facebook has learned nothing.

The recent introduction of its graphing tool is a throwback to the days of cyber-stalking. Content that users thought was private is all of a sudden searched and mined and available for all to consume. The user can shut this down through a myriad web of intricate security settings, but most are at this point completely oblivious. Wait until they find out.

It's not that Facebook is some Orwellian, terrible organization that is hated by all. On the contrary, Facebook has served as an incredible platform to connect the globe in a way that no other has yet managed to come even close to. But Facebook is so fixated on it's lackluster share price performance that it's forgetting who its core is – its users. I'm not sure something is coming along to usurp Facebook, like Google+ or a revived MySpace, but I can tell you that users are going to start parking their content somewhere else, somewhere safe and they're going to ask for neither permission nor forgiveness.

More Stories By Uri Estrin

Uri is the President and Founder of Estrin Technologies (www.estrintech.com) based in New York. He is a 20+ year veteran of the Technology Industry and has worked on three continents. He is a system architect and usability expert and is currently focusing on web based solutions and mobile apps.

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