Facebook: Does Mark Zuckerberg Care about Customers’ Privacy?


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There's a lot of buzz around the new Facebook movie, Social Network. I haven't seen it yet, but I've been reading the book, The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, on my Kindle. The fictionalized account of the founding of Facebook makes great theater. But what also comes across loud and clear is how seductive an experience people find it to be to talk about themselves and among themselves about their stuff.

For me, the most sensational tidbits in the Facebook story don’t revolve around who ripped off whose idea and how much money they made. I'm more interested in the social media phenomenon and in the idea that if you make it the path of least resistance for everyone to share everything with everyone, they will!

The most telling tidbit I've read to-date was the IM snippet that was apparently leaked to Silicon Alley Insider and found its way to Jose Antonio Vargas, who included it in his New Yorker profile of Mark Zuckerberg, The Face of Facebook, in which Mark Zuckerberg (Zuck) offers a friend inside information about anyone at Harvard University:

"ZUCK: yea so if you ever need info about anyone at harvard
ZUCK: just ask
ZUCK: i have over 4000 emails, pictures, addresses, sns
FRIEND: what!? how'd you manage that one?
ZUCK: people just submitted it
ZUCK: i don't know why
ZUCK: they 'trust me'
ZUCK: dumb fucks'"

I'm sure that calling people who trust you with their information "dumb f*cks" is a youthful indiscretion that Mark would like to put behind him. But, thanks to the buzz around the movie and the book, and all the articles being written about Mark and Facebook, it's not likely to go away.

That's exactly why the spin-masters at Facebook are doling out this week's sound bites—they all have to do with having more control over your private information. Sounds like a good step in the right direction.

But just as I sat down to research and comment upon the recent privacy improvements that Facebook has made, I discovered an interesting thing: I have a Facebook phonebook that I never created or populated and it’s full of phone numbers from people who never gave me their phone numbers. How did this happen?

The answer apparently lies in the fact that Facebook has an algorithm that matches people with their contact info. This apparently includes phone numbers that were found on other apps that are now linked to Facebook. So Facebook happily deposits these into the Facebook phonebook that it created on my behalf. This seems spooky to me.

On the other hand, I have always appreciated services like Plaxo and Linked In, where we all update our own contact details, and everyone who is linked to us has the advantage of always having the latest and most up-to-date info. So why am I perturbed about having phone numbers people didn't give me? It seems to me to be a violation of their privacy. And maybe mine too. It's also indicative of how everything gets amplified and multiplied once applications are talking to other applications and sharing bits of information back and forth. The Facebook platform is actually an ecosystem of 550,000 applications all of which are sharing information with each other. Some of that information is yours!

Here's my take: thank goodness for the Electronic Frontier Foundation!

Facebook Tries to Clean Up Its Privacy Act

Can Facebook Users Really Expect Any Privacy Protections?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patricia Seybold
With 30 years of experience consulting to customer-centric executives in technology-aggressive businesses across many industries, Patricia Seybold is a visionary thought leader with the unique ability to spot the impact that technology enablement and customer behavior will have on business trends very early. Seybold provides customer-centric executives within Fortune 1 companies with strategic insights, technology guidance, and best practices.


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