I am a intrigued by the new applications that will soon be available on Facebook. These applications, such as the already released Washington Post Social Reader, mean major changes in how we share, as well as serious concerns for privacy.
What is going on?
As you probably know, Mark Zuckerberg released a considerable amount of information about changes that will be happening on Facebook over the next few weeks.
One item is the Timeline, which I can’t really address yet, since I haven’t had a chance to try it out. But, people will say they hate it. This is because people hate every change on Facebook. So whether it is better or worse, people will hate it. And then they will adjust. People will threaten to leave. Some people will actually leave. But until I have a chance to actually try out the new profile design and look at the privacy settings and controls, I can’t really comment. Here is a video from Facebook explaining the concept.
New Applications – Increased Sharing
What I did get to try today, and you can as well, is the Washington Post’s Social Reader. This new application provides the ability to read the news on Facebook, and automatically shares the stories you are reading with your friends. I am going to have to guess that the people who can see what I am reading on the Social Reader are the same people I allow to see my Facebook wall. So my privacy settings should control who sees what still.
Netflix has actually made a similar application, but because of an old and outdated law from 1988, the Video Privacy Protection Act, it won’t be able to automatically share what people watch in the United States. There is already a push to change the law.
Great For Business – But What About Privacy?
A colleague recently asked me what I thought of the changes. I said are you asking me as a businessperson, attorney or individual?
As a businessperson, I love these changes. How wonderful that when people use an application they will automatically share information about their activities, providing quick and easy marketing. People won’t even have to click “like” to let people know they are using my product. Also, I understand soon marketers will be able to create options to replace “like,” such as “read” or “watched.”
As an attorney, I would like to see changes to the Video Privacy Protection Act and related laws that make it very difficult to subpoena information from Facebook and other sites. I worry very much about the authentication of the data that is presented in court. I would much rather be able to get the data from the site itself. Data that has less of a risk of being altered. But I don’t want the law to completely go away. I don’t want it to be easy to get such private information from websites. Especially since the owner of a Facebook account isn’t the only person who has his privacy implicated if a full account is subpoenaed. What about people who post on his wall or send him messages?
I am also worried about showing too much of people’s lives. What if someone is shown to be spending too much time watching movies when he should be working? Or reading a book he considers embarrassing? Will attorneys try to use that information in court? You can bet we will. So depending on the side you are on, you might fear sharing of too much information, or be thrilled that more information will be available.
As an individual, I am concerned. Do I want people to know every article I read on the Washington Post today? Probably not. Can I see myself forgetting that the Washington Post Social Reader tells all of my friends everything I read? I sure can. The interface on the Social Reader is really sleek too. I like it better than the Washington Post website. I would enjoy reading news on the Social Reader. But to use it, I have to let people see what I am reading. Do I want to do that? I’m not sure yet. I am going to hold my judgment until I see the actual changes on Facebook and get a chance to see what kind of privacy settings are possible. But do I want to have to stop and think, do I mind if people know I am reading, watching or observing Y before I do it? No, not really.
I think people will enjoy the convenience of the new Facebook, they will like that they can find more information, the apps will be sleek and cool. But I also think that people will choose to allow a new application, and despite the warnings not appreciate that the details of how they are using that application will be shared. I also think people will complain that there is too much spam. Too many posts about reading articles, watching tv, playing games. I am hopeful that there will be ways to limit all of these things, both in terms of what you show and what you see.