Facebook’s Dilemma: Privacy, Users, Competitors, or Semantics?
Facebook CTO Bret Taylor has said that “most” of Facebook’s users have changed their privacy settings. So? This still only tells us that users follow Facebook’s suggestions on how to use the site. How are they using it otherwise?
Sergey Brin and Vic Gondotra say that Google is playing a different game than Facebook.
Sean Parker, CEO of Spotify and founder of Napster, was interviewed the other day about Facebook’s privacy settings at Tim O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 Summit. Parker, who sits on the Facebook board flippantly — according to him — answered that when it comes to Facebook and privacy there is “good creepy and bad creepy.” The comment, and the write up on TechCrunch have resulted in a little bit of back and forth on just what he meant, and whether Facebook does in fact suffer from a privacy problem.
What follows is a case of where a product-focused company wants the product to mean something for he consumer, which it doesn’t. The consumer has his or her own idea of what the product means. Facebook wants them to be as open as possible on Facebook, because, I think, Mark Zuckerberg wants Facebook to be the platform for open sharing, frictionless and without limits. The fact that they are participating on the platform means that this is what they want. But consumers don’t work that way. You can give a consumer a glass of water, but that does not mean he is drinking it.
Parker believes the problem is semantic, and that if users knew what they were talking about a bit better they would understand that their issue is not one of privacy but one of information control. In a way, he’s right, because from an aspirational point of view, like a marketer, he wants consumers to want Facebook to operate in a certain way.
The whole string of comments is here. The following is Parker’s position:
Allow me to rephrase myself — it’s not that privacy isn’t a general problem, it’s that privacy isn’t the correct way of framing issue. The point I was trying to make, which I have made more eloquently in the past, is that many of the problems that users attribute to a lack of privacy basically boil down to a lack of decent controls, which boils down to a lack of sufficiently powerful interfaces for managing the flow of information. This isn’t a “privacy” issue per se, it’s a functionality issue.
The problem is not even privacy or even functionality, it’s the people judging you or using your informations/opinions/pict
ures against you on Facebook. But I guess fixing that would need another level of changing things…
It is NOT voluntary on their part, it stems from a failure to understand what product changes would actually mollify the privacy concerns that keep coming up. Facebook tries to built all sorts of privacy panels and settings and controls, but none of this seems to address the recurring complaints. I am simply saying that they should build tools for controlling the flow of information like those described above. These would not be considered “privacy” feature but I would argue they will go along way towards addressing what most people are now calling “privacy” concerns.
You are using semantics to re-frame an issue that, in web design, is not a semantic one. On a web site, as you know, how a user interacts is framed by how the developer creates it. While it may not be the intention for privacy to be an issue, the user experience makes it seem as such. Therefore, it’s an issue. You can’t tell a person not to think about privacy because the site or the experience wasn’t designed properly. If I go on a date, and the person I’m on a date with sneezes, farts, and burps during the date, I can’t say later, well, the date just wasn’t designed properly. That’s the date I had, and that’s the date I experienced, whether the date wanted to fart, sneeze or burp during the wonderful plating of duck a la mode.You can use semantics to frame your issue, but as Facebook is constructed, that’s how people use and see the issue. There are questions already, about whether there is an actual FTC investigation going on — Facebook does not have to reveal this, as a private company. The only way they would reveal this, according to someone I talked to at the FTC, is through the registration of their SEC documents, when they file for an IPO. Facebook delayed their filing, according to recent reports. There are also, I believe, nine different privacy suits being filed against Facebook, according to other reports.Also, my original comment was also pointed to TechCrunch, which didn’t report that you had said that as a shareholder you didn’t believe you could give an accurate answer.