Facebook Only Shares What You Tell It

Having a party in your bedroom? If somebody has their phone with them, your bedroom is now public.

News flash: Everything you do could end up on the internet. Start acting like it.


I’ve been reading a lot of complaints lately about Facebook and how everything is so public.

I’m still trying to figure out why people are angry. Why would anyone think that anything they put online, regardless of what a website says, could actually be kept hidden?

A recent post on Wired was another in the long list of issues with Facebook, “How can it fall to users when most of the choices don’t actually exist? I’d like to make my friend list private. Cannot.

“I’d like to have my profile visible only to my friends, not my boss. Cannot.

“I’d like to support an anti-abortion group without my mother or the world knowing. Cannot.”

If you don’t want your mother to know that you are anti-abortion, than how anti-abortion are you? Is keeping something hidden from everyone standing up for it?

It does take some adjusting to. I was having difficulty the other day phrasing how Sports Illustrated’s integration of fantasy football into Facebook could increase play among “friends in real life.” Which is to say, people who know each other offline. It isn’t correct, however, to say “in real life,” as Facebook of course is real life.

The internet is real life. It’s not a game. As Derek Sivers explains, in one of the best blogs I’ve ever read, the people on the other side are just as real as you are.

Mitch Joel said in a recent podcast, “There’s nothing virtual about it… when people say, ‘What do they do in the real world?’ I’m always like, ‘It is the real world.’ When you’re on Facebook are you an avatar? What are people talking about when they say that? It makes me nuts.”

The greatest take on complaints over website changes came in response to a Guardian article about the latest Facebook redesign outrage. A user known as “Lovelight” replied simply, “I guess users should ask for their money back.”

I can’t even put into words how genius that response is.

You don’t like it? Go somewhere else.

I’ll give the same response to complaints about Google’s addition of a sidebar last week. Don’t like it? Use Bing, use Ask, use Wikipedia, use Yebol. I don’t care. You have a choice. Either use one of the other ones or stop complaining about Google.

The most legitimate complaint in all of this is Facebook “promising you privacy and then later ripping it out from under you…”

I don’t want to say it should be a free for all. If I entrust my credit card number to amazon, I certainly hope it won’t become public. And the day that I entrust my credit card to Facebook Credits, which will be huge, I will expect the same thing. But we’re not talking about exposing that type of information.

To my knowledge profile updates were never subject to protection with “state-of-the-art security features” and “stored on a secured server behind a firewall,” like financial information related to Facebook Credits are.

Facebook is only sharing so much of what you tell it. So what if everyone on the planet knows what movies I like? How is that a bad thing? If a stranger came up to you on the street and asked what your favorite movie is, would you tell them? I would. So whether they find out on Facebook or face-to-face really isn’t that big of a difference.

I don’t want to make it sound like you should never point out negatives about anything. Facebook may see all of this and make some changes, but the extent that people complain about something that’s voluntary astounds me.

There is a difference between feedback and complaining.

Complaints about companies checking up on people’s lives online is nothing new. It usually turns out to be the individual’s fault. If you get drunk, take some inappropriate pictures, and complain about your boss, then you may deserve to be fired.

There’s always the, “Well, I didn’t think it would get on the internet” excuse.

What world are you living in? Not the same one as me.

If you are around a cell phone, a camera, any type of recording device: You are in public and there is no privacy!

Having a party in your bedroom? If somebody has their phone with them, your bedroom is now public.

News flash: Everything you do could end up on the internet. Start acting like it.

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