Get over Facebook privacy; start liking Facebook ‘Like’


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Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been in the firing line all this week over Facebook’s privacy controls, and today the company has responded by simplifying their privacy controls and launching a new ‘Like’ feature.

Vocal Facebook users have been arguing that the Facebook privacy controls are too complicated, and that Facebook’s ‘Like’ button shares too much data about individuals. The privacy advocates have also created a boycott Facebook day on May 31st. So far some 11,000 have signed up out of the 400 million Facebook users. Mark Zuckerberg, unrelenting, says that “We’re going to serve one billion ‘like’ buttons on the Web” in the first 24 hours.”

What these privacy advocates don’t get is that Facebook, like Google, isn’t free. It’s a massive service, that needs to be paid for, and that the service is going to be funded by a multi-billion advertising business, just as Google is. This is the price you pay for using a ‘free’ service. Facebook Like is central to this strategy, and equally important for ecommerce.

When it comes to privacy, what did you expect? Very few things in life are truly free, and when you use a service like Facebook, then someone has to pay if the service is to have any longevity.

Unless you are happy to pay a fee for a social networking service like Facebook, then you need to get over any misunderstanding about your privacy on Facebook. In fact Mark Zuckerberg reiterated this week that Facebook will always be a free service, so you have to understand Facebook will fund it’s service by advertising to you.

Facebook Like is at the core of this strategy.

At today’s launch, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled social plug-in features which make it easy for ecommerce teams to integrate their websites content with Facebook. In particular Facebook’s ‘Like’ button enables other websites users to share and comment on content back on their Facebook profile pages. The significance of this for ecommerce should not be underestimated. Facebook has said that it won’t pass these websites any personal data about users, and denies that it will use individual likes to target relevant advertisements to users. We’ve noted before the enormous potential to be gained from connecting Facebook with Ecommerce sites. Facebook ‘Like’ takes this to a new level, and replaces the ‘Become a fan’ button.

This is how it works:

When a visitor clicks a Like button similar to this one:

….they can then put in a comment, and it will appear on your wall and in your news feed, like this:

The primary benefit here is simple: it gets visitors on your website to engage, and share what they like with their network.

This provides back-links to your website’s content from Facebook, and those links are visible to all of your visitors’ networks.

In fact you can try it out yourself by clicking the ‘Like’ button at the top or bottom of this article.

Moreover, it’s a doddle to do. Without the comment capability, you simply need to copy a single line of HTML onto your content page. With the comment, it’s a simple piece of Javascript you drop onto the page.

From an ecommerce point of view, what’s not to like here? It’s now really easy for your visitors share what they like on your website with their friends, without so much as a login. The ease of use and simplicity of the ‘Like’ button makes it a sure fire hit, as long as users can get comfortable with privacy.

As these links to content build up, Facebook is gathering not only an index of the most ‘Liked’ content on the web, but also a profile of what individual Facebook visitors like. This data could in the future be used to serve more relevant ads, though a Facebook spokesman was at pains to point out this is not part of today’s announcement.

This kind of behavioural targeting is very effective, and comes with it’s own set of privacy critics. In the future, if you are on a travel site and ‘Like’ an article on Hawaii, ads in your Facebook account will start showing up advertising vacations in Hawaii.

It’s also possible that Facebook could use aggregated ‘Like’ data to provide search capabilities to rival Google, but based on users ‘Likes’ as opposed to arbitrary SEO criteria.

This is the price that Facebook users have to pay for using a Free service. Let’s see how the new privacy controls fare in the hands of the privacy advocates, but once this issue gets sorted, expect to see the Like button everywhere.


At an individual personal level, you are not in control of your privacy, Facebook is. If you are in any way unsure about that, just go and read the Facebook terms and conditions: you are giving Facebook a ‘non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook.’ Basically that means that they can do what they like with your content, and if it is distributed by one of your friends then you can’t pull it.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Charles Nicholls
Charles Nicholls is a social commerce expert and board advisor to several e-commerce startups. He founded SeeWhy, a real-time personalization and machine learning platform, which was sold to SAP. Serving as SVP of product, he built SAP Upscale Commerce, an e-commerce platform for direct-to-consumer brands and the mid-market. Today, Charles serves as chief strategy officer for SimplicityDX, a commerce experience company. He has worked on strategy and projects for leading ecommerce companies worldwide, including Amazon, eBay, Google and many others.


  1. It’s incorrect to think this data gathering occurs only after the like button is clicked. Simply by having a like button on the webpage information is being passed back to facebook about the pages the user is visiting. Most facebook users dont specifically log out, it can use this to keep track of the user and with the like button know the page you are visiting (amongst a reasonable amount of other data).

    The problem here is the web authors are creating a leak of information to another website simply upon visiting the author’s website, which most users would not be willing to have happen (if they knew).


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