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Wha’ Happened? – Facebook: You Get What You Paid For

Written by Alexander Leach on May 14, 2010

There’s been a lot of discussion on the interwebs lately about the dishonesty of the company behind the social networking site Facebook with regard to recent changes to their terms of service. I’d like to say I can understand where people are coming from with their objections to this, but seriously, I think the implications of these alterations to established privacy policies are a little overblown to say the least. It’s really not that big of a deal. Users, after all, will get what they paid for.

Sure, it’s a little tricky to delete your account, sure the site shares ‘demographic’ information with third parties (which the majority of opt-in services on the ‘net do anyway), but it’s not like the site deliberately and openly shares your home address with complete strangers… Any information forwarded on to advertisers is totally anonymous.

I think there’s a certain level of tacit consent involved when you sign up to any totally public social networking site anyway. I mean, who is it really hurting? Are those ads on the side of the page that annoying? How many do users actually click on? There still remains the option to block troublesome applications (and even individual users) from your news feed and incoming requests if that truly effects your browsing experience.

While the level of advert-apping is getting more pervasive on Facebook, I still think it effectively amounts to a reasonably expectable payment for such a massively accessible FREE online service. There’s far less advertising on Facebook, for instance, than the majority of websites I visit on a regular basis (and again, with the apps, you can always block them the moment they appear in your news feed).

Although I do take issue with arbitrary changes to Facebook’s terms of service with regard to publicly and privately shared information, to a point, the company is still somewhat within their rights to do so… It’s the same ‘we reserve the right to change these conditions without notice’ clause that most online services tack on to the end of their terms of service…

Who really uses Facebook exclusively to share information with select personal contacts anyway? It’s pretty naive to think that’s what this service is (now) essentially designed for, especially given that Google have been using the same sort of targeted marketing (admittedly sans direct personal information such as interests and hobbies, even though through search requests and IP traces they can discern a considerable amount about an individual) for years. Bottom line, if you’re really that concerned with privacy, DON’T USE FACEBOOK.

I wonder how many of the naysayers and ‘Tsk Tskers’ have actually followed through with their concerns over privacy and deleted their accounts. It’s all well and good to disagree with the company’s corporate policy, but until you stick to your guns and veto the site altogether, you’re really only satisfying your own personal sense of moral outrage by complaining without backing it up with tangible, real world (hmmm) action.

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