Everything’s Public & Visible on Facebook II


We had posted about Privacy concerns on Facebook earlier this year.  It seems that this debate has started again, though it may have come from unfounded sources.

There was an invitation floating around Facebook some time back, asking if we wanted to install and run ‘Facebook Premium’.  This has been blogged by early adopters and geek freaks in various places, and it was noted breathlessly, in what read like a press release, that ‘…the social network is quietly rolling out a pair of beta services — Facebook Premium and Facebook Classic — to select users. Facebook Classic lets each user opt in to the Facebook design of his or her choice…’

Although the buzz-chasers were keen to source that Christopher Cox, Facebook’s Director of Product, had leaked the information of a beta version of this being tried amongst some heavy users of the service, it was claimed that:

“Facebook Premium adds more features that users have been clamoring for, including better integration with Twitter and other social networking services, better photo album navigation, improved granularity in the app and user blocking processes, MySpace-style theming support, auto-play music, and new privacy options”. Cox didn’t announce specifics of a pricing model for Facebook Premium, but in a Wall-to-Wall conversation, he intimated that it would be on par with similar services, such as Xbox Live and TiVo and include some sort of enhanced micropayment scheme.” – Will Smith Writing on Maximum PC

It has since been exposed as a hoax, as noted by Mesh Marketer, amongst others.  Just another case of lazy trigger happy writers thinking they’ve got the scoop when the Twitter winds blow by.  All good, innocent fun.

However, there was an interesting footnote in this story, and that was the idea of ‘Facebook Background’.  In the same UNTRUE(!) press release, a new service called ‘Facebook Background’ was supposed to be in development.  Here’s the story:

‘…Premium beta users will gain access to Facebook’s Background service, which has been in closed trials for the last three years. Background gives any user full access to both public and private data in another user’s profile, for a one-time fee of $8 per user…’ Will Smith again

Now, while none of this is actually happening, it can be seen how such a simple step for Facebook could net them a significant revenue stream.  As it stands, there are many articles out there on Facebook background checks for prospective employers and so on, but seeing as Facebook has a number of privacy measures in place, it is our own responsibility as regards how we want to portray ourselves online, and who gets to see that.  As it stands, there are plenty of people who I don’t want to share my online profile with.  The idea that anyone can ‘buy in’ is indeed uncomfortable, because for me, Facebook has become a sort of open diary of key events in my life, a place where I store all my pictures and so on.

I guess the key message here is that we are all responsible for managing our online presence, and perhaps shouldn’t post stuff that we don’t want our parents or boss reading if it can be easily traced back to us.

A final thought:

All those fun little apps that help us break the ice online, with Risqué quizzes (What’s Your Pornstar Name? etc) ask you the name of your childhood pet and so on.  Imagine this is published to your profile, along with your date of birth, your mother’s maiden name, your city of birth, your favorite colour, what town you live in, and so on.  If someone reads all of this info, and joins the dots, they probably have enough information to get past the security questions with your bank teller over the phone.

Just a thought.  Play safe kids.

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