Some Facebook developments: reactions to advertising and privacy issues

Two items here.

A reaction against the introduction of blatant advertising in the social network, in the form of an open letter, by Janine Carmona; the second concerns the privacy practices at Facebook.

Open Letter to Facebook on the Walmart ads

“I was alarmed today when I came across a group on Facebook sponsored by WalMart trying to sell me crap for my dorm room.

This is the first such blatantly corporate advertisements on Facebook I have run across.

No matter what you think of WalMart as a company (and there are many who think that their business practices are disgusting and harmful: you should note that Facebook is a social networking site that defines itself as a place for people to connect with those who live and work around them. This does not include faceless advertisers. The WalMart group is not a person to network with, to share stories and pictures with or to talk to- it is a portal to get us to buy stuff.

WalMart doesn’t have a “face” to “book” and neither do any of the other corporations that get advertising time from Facebook. I am tired of corporations invading one of the only Internet spaces left that are not simply trying to get their hands on my money.

In lieu of noting this Facebook should use these simple guidelines to keep me from deleting my account and moving over to the myriad of social networking sites that have not sold out:

1. Corporations are not individuals, they cannot “network” and should not have access to the human beings who use Facebook, their contact information, or their time.

2. Facebook should seriously consider the human rights and business practices of a potential advertiser. At least post a warning that there have been problems with these instead of bowing down to whoever has the money. It’s a bit demeaning, no?

3. I’m not saying individuals who like WalMart should have no say here, hell, -actual- users should make all the “I Love WalMart” groups they want. Let’s just make sure the people making groups are actually people, shall we? Free speech is fine, but money should not be able to buy the free speech of a human being. Otherwise, those with the most money would have the most free speech, and that wouldn’t be fair to the rest of us would it?

See 3 practical and simple steps to making me a happy Facebook consumer. If you agree with me, perhaps you should share this note, send the practical steps to the Facebook team, or go to the Walmart group and post a comment on the page-there’s already some fascinating discussion there.

All my love to the users of Facebook and the employees of WalMart everywhere-may you soon make a decent wage.”

The Privacy aspects of Facebook:

Summary by the Gnuband blog of a presentation by Alessandro Acquisti :

“Alessandro Acquisti , Carnegie Mellon University, delighted us with great insights about “Imagined communities: awareness, information sharing and privacy: the Facebook case” . His research is in the economics of privacy and he revealed interesting facts about Facebook, for example, 89% of Facebook users reveale their real name. And 87% of CMU Facebook profiles reveale birthday, 51% reveale the address, 40% reveale their phone number (40%!). 61% of the posted images are suited for direct identification. Remember that this information will never disappear, it will stored forever in many computers (facebook servers, google servers, servers and … as the following discussion easily revealed, governments servers, secret agencies servers and probably many companies who can just afford to save everything and decide in future what to do with this information). There is an evident privacy risk of re-identification: 87% of US population is uniquely identified by {gender, ZIP, date of birth} (Sweeney, 2001), Facebook users that put this information up on their profile could link them up to outside, de-identified data sources.

Facebook profiles often show high quality facial images, Images can be linked to de-identified profiles using face recognition. Some findings on Facebook: Non members rate privacy (concerns, worries, importance) statistically significantly (although only slightly) higher than members. Members deny they use Facebook for dating, however they state they think other members use it for dating. Majority agrees that the information other Facebook members reveal may create a privacy risk for them (mean Likert 4.92). They are significantly less concerned about their own privacy (mean Likert 3.60). Respondents trust the Facebook… more than they trust unconnected Facebook users.

The survey about how much users know about Facebook’s privacy policy is interesting as well: “Facebook also collects information about you from other sources, such as newspapers and instant messaging services. This information is gathered regardless of your use of the Web Site.” 67% believe that is not the case.

“We use the information about you that we have collected from other sources to supplement your profile unless you specify in your privacy settings that you do not want this to be done.” 70% believe that is not the case.”

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