Facebook and Privacy

Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg is the subject of a recent feature movie and the “Man of the Year” cover story for Time magazine because of the impact of the huge membership of 500+ million people on the web site. I am active on Facebook daily, but only interact with a small group of 40 people that I know. I can’t call them close personal friends, but at least they are not occasional acquaintances. I use it primarily to interact with folks that I don’t get to see regularly but have known over a period of time and want to maintain contact with. I have previously discussed the differing opinions of whether Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn are best for professional connections so I won’t repeat that commentary.

I know that Facebook shares a lot of information even when you specify that you will share only with “friends of friends,” but I still was a little surprised when I logged into the New York Times web site (I don’t follow the Times per se but I do get the weekly e-mail from David Pogue and the Podcast NYT Tech Talk). I got a blurb about what my “other Facebook” friends were “liking” even then I didn’t recall seeing those posts on Facebook. Obviously Facebook and New York Times are sharing information about me. I don’t know that I object, but I don’t think that was how I understood how it works. So I went back and refreshed my understanding of how “pages” (companies) and “profiles” (individuals) work and what it means to “follow” someone. I also email friends regularly clips of articles I see online or in print that I want to share, and sometimes it comes out OK and other times it doesn’t. “Sharing” on Facebook is certainly the simplest and quickest way to do it, but then not all of my friends are on Facebook or want to be.

I don’t see the primary issue as that of privacy; we basically abandoned that when we started using cellphones a decade ago. I don’t post anything on any of the social media sites that I would be embarrassed for anyone to see. Am I revealing too much about myself to the public? I don’t think so. As a volunteer board member for several non-profit organizations I was directly involved in trying to promote their programs. I’m no longer that involved as a volunteer and don’t mention their programs in my posts, but I do have a lot of different interests and share them freely. So I don’t see this “invasion of privacy” as some sinister plot; it’s part of the learning curve or an organization that has grown exponentially is a very short period of time. I will leave it up to the sociologist to figure out why.

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