The latest Facebook fracas: Your privacy vs. its profit
By Rob Pegoraro Sunday, April 4, 2010; G04
The signs of a new season surround us: Flowers are blooming, trees are budding, and another Facebook privacy fracas is brewing.
The last event kicked off a week ago, when the popular social network posted a note on its blog about "working with some partner Web sites that we pre-approve to offer a more personalized experience" at those sites.
This possible change didn't exactly get a charitable read in reactions like "Facebook's Plan To Automatically Share Your Data With Sites You Never Signed Up For," and "Facebook Planning To Give Away Your Data To 'Partners.' "
How bad could things get for the 400 million-plus Facebook users when this test begins a few months from now?
The potential downside seems obvious. You'll see that some random site knows who your Facebook friends are and fret about other once-private information Facebook might be leaking. But what will you be able to do when so much of your life is tied up there?
As Sherry Turkle, a sociologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in an e-mail Thursday: "There is a sense of the 'investment' in Facebook being so great that one is beholden to it. . . . This is not empowering."
(Before I go further, a few disclaimers: Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham sits on Facebook's board of directors; Facebook's chief privacy officer, Chris Kelly, who is on leave to run for political office, is a friend of mine from college; and many Post staffers, myself included, use public Facebook pages to connect with readers.)
The upside isn't quite as clear.