Facebook is a free online service that nobody is obligated to use.Facebook's recent overhaul - and the across the board changes that are yet to come for all users - have risen a lot of complaints and rumors. Rumors that they are going to start charging for their service went around the web this weekend. When that rumor subsided, the one complaint almost everyone has came back to surface: lack of privacy.

I've seen a lot of folks complain - a LOT - complain about a lack of privacy within the platform. Facebook does use the information you provide for marketing purposes. Advertisers leverage items like your interests, Likes and wall posts to target their messaging. Soon, they will use other action items like "read" or "watch" to further target their reach. What most people fail to admit is the information that Facebook uses is information they volunteered themselves when filling out their profiles. I feel like there's a complete lack of personal accountability when people complain about privacy issues. With the instant streaming of apps, the complaining will look to do anything but decrease.

At the End of the Day, Privacy is in the Hands of the User

For any casual user, you have the ability to set your privacy settings to any extreme. You can guard your personal information to where only people you allow into that circle of trust aka "friending" another user. From there, you can set each status update to be viewable by the public, just friends or even just specific circles of friends. Creating friend groups used to be a manual process but Facebook has even made this step that much easier with their new automated smart lists. So only the people you want to see your information will see it. It's not an open book. It's up to the user to set their personal privacy settings. It's ultimately the end user's responsibility, not Facebook's.


The other grievance people have (and will have) is the auto sharing of apps. If you're reading an article on the Washington Post Social Reader or listening to a song on Spotify, it automatically feeds into the new Ticker. People don't like the autoshare function and claim it to be too invasive. On one end, I can see their point. It is a bit annoying for every single song you listen to to pop up automatically - a function that is going to be standard for all apps in the future. However, there are three ways to avoid and look at this with a glass half full:

  • The share only goes on the Ticker...something where status updates have a lifecycle of less than a minute
  • App actions don't have to show up on your profile/Timeline if you don't want them to
  • Except for Spotify, you don't have to connect or sign up for external services using your Facebook account if you don't want to

Relevant Ads

Your profile information and status updates are parts of the information that Facebook reads to serve up relevant ad content. This part of Facebook's practices is what really makes a lot of people uncomfortable in regards to privacy. However, it's the advertising revenue (in addition to Facebook Credits in games) that helps keep this service free for over 3/4 of a billion people. It's the targeted advertising and effectiveness that keeps advertisers coming back to spend money and continue to keep the service free.

Also, look at the ads from a user perspective. Facebook is going to serve ads anyway for revenue. What would you rather see as a user? Ads that are relative to your interest, Likes and needs? Or random ads that seem even more spam-like? I know personally I would rather see ads for things like CRM tools and marketing platforms over "Take surveys for free" and "male enhancement" types of ads that people could see.

Only Time Will Tell

When it comes to privacy, how much information is shared is really all in the hands of the user. Users aren't required to fill out their entire life stories on their profile pages. There are steps users can take in their account settings to guard their information and privacy. Sure Facebook could do a better job with educating people on how to work with new privacy settings in light of recent changes but at the end of the day, it's all of our responsibilities as users to know the risks of sharing before...you know...sharing our information.

We aren't required to use Facebook. There are other ways to keep in touch with old high school buddies. There are numerous social networks. After Facebook changes - months from now - everyone will either move on to another platform for communicating or forget all about any complaint they had in the first place.
Where do you think you'll be a few months from now?
For more help with your Facebook privacy settings, here is a list of helpful tips and information.