Quick Hit: Going deeper into the Facebook privacy controversy

Danah Boyd has a nuanced and powerful analysis of all these FB shananigans that is not to be missed. An excerpt:

In documenting Zuckerberg’s attitudes about transparency, Kirkpatrick sheds light on one of the weaknesses of his philosophy: Zuckerberg doesn’t know how to resolve the positive (and in his head inevitable) outcomes of transparency with the possible challenges of surveillance. As is typical in the American tech world, most of the conversation about surveillance centers on the government. But Kirkpatrick highlights another outcome of surveillance with a throwaway example that sends shivers down my spine: “When a father in Saudi Arabia caught his daughter interacting with men on Facebook, he killed her.” This is precisely the kind of unintended consequence that motivates me to speak loudly even though I’m privileged enough to not face these risks. Statistically, death is an unlikely outcome of surveillance. But there are many other kinds of side effects that are more common and also disturbing: losing one’s job, losing one’s health insurance, losing one’s parental rights, losing one’s relationships, etc. Sometimes, these losses will be because visibility makes someone more accountable. But sometimes this will occur because of misinterpretation and/or overreaction. And the examples keep on coming.

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  • cattrack2

    “What’s at stake now is not whether or not Facebook will become passe, but whether or not Facebook will become evil.”
    We over use the word evil. Hitler was evil. Stalin was evil. Pol Pot was evil. Zuckerberg is a young guy doing his level best to earn an honest buck.
    Web 2.0 has expanded beyond rules, norms, and the knowledge of society. FB’s privacy safeguards have always been pretty good–not perfect, but pretty good. If you availed yourself of them most embarrassing situation could be avoided 9 times out of 10. The rest requires a conversation with your friends about NOT posting embarrassing pictures of you :-) But privacy controls are boring. And time consuming. And challenging. Making them easier will do a load of good.
    The drawback is not insignificant though. If everyone chooses the strictest privacy settings your social network will become much less social, and do so very quickly. I understand FB’s cautious approach, even tho I’m someone with the strictest settings.

  • izzy


  • Chickensh*tEagle

    I pulled the plug on Facebook yesterday.
    A short while ago Facebook showed flashed me a dialog box with an old email address of mine and asked if I wanted to use it as a “backup” email for Facebook. The only options were to say yes, add still more email addresses, or “cancel.” No way to tell them, “No, that’s not me.” And of course, not one word about just HTF they got that other email of mine.
    Then a few days ago I clicked thru from AlterNet to link to an article there, then next day I saw my own profile picture staring back at me from AlterNet.
    Uh-uh. No more. That’s all, folks. Thank you very much.
    Entertaining exercise: De-activate your Facebook account and see how Facebook cajoles you to stay. And no worries if you actually carry it through — you get an email telling you you can re-activate any time just by logging in with your same email and password. Nothing will have changed. They’ve still got you.

  • amber-indikaze

    Evil doesn’t just pop up by itself. It grows as people ignore it. If FB becomes an “evil” service, it won’t be because Zuckerberg was born a rotten person, but because people let him get away with ethically dubious things (so that he decides that ethically dubious things are fine, and that he can do even more)
    The trick is to keep up the pressure and amplify it.

  • mk

    You can delete your account–they just make it tricky to do, and deactivation is the default rather than deletion. How long deletion takes, however, is unclear. From the offical Facebook help page:

    Our system delays the deletion process in case you change your mind and no longer want to permanently delete your account. Note that logging in to your account again will undo a pending deletion request.

    They don’t specify how long your deletion request could remain pending–or how long they’ll still have your content before they approve the request.

  • Celine Latulipe

    You should note that the author spells her name without caps: danah boyd. Just a friendly FYI from a Femnisting reader in the HCI/computer science community. :-)

  • Icy Bear

    I’m pretty sure danah boyd’s name is not capitalized… I think this is something we should honor.