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Written on April 27th, 2010 by | 56 Comments

Has Facebook Gone Too Far?

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Has Facebook Gone Too Far?

Last evening I read a post by Scoble saying he has given up the battle for privacy (thanks to Facebook) and that we should all do the same. I responded with the following series of tweets:

  • So if privacy is no big deal tell us what color underwear are you wearing, how often did you make love to your wife this week or
  • If privacy is really dead turn your webcam on next time you diddle yourself, or post your social security number, or
  • Sorry to say this but with all due respect you miss the point and the premise of your post is stupid
  • Unless we draw a line where will this new age of no privacy end? It’s NOT the brave new world I want to live
  • Sorry for that outburst but when I see people in a position of influence going soft on privacy it really angers me
  • (Mr. Scoble then responded that I should write a book … I told him I’m thinking about it.)
  • (Then somebody challenged me saying I was missing the point. I asked him to provide more details and he backed down.)
  • In the legal world it’s all about precedents and if the legislators don’t say enough is enough (and get their head out of their collective ass), then it never will be enough (sooner than we think)
  • Regarding websites demanding birth dates .. most people don’t know they can find almost anything about you with just a name and a birthdate
  • Giving your name and birth date is almost the same is handing out your Social Security Number (or SIN no. in Canada) … DANGEROUS!
  • Because of the viral nature of social media and cloud security issues, giving your private info such as birthdate etc. is extremely dangerous
  • Handing out your private info to social media sites is analogous to handing a stranger a loaded gun and the key to your front door
  • Even if a social media site promises to keep your private info ‘private‘, remember .. they can always change their TOS later (look at Facebook)
  • Also remember, nothing is absolutely safe on the cloud .. there are no guarantees and everything is hackable .. EVERYTHING
  • If anybody tells you to give up the battle for your right to privacy .. tell them to stuff it .. I did
  • Only a marketer making money off social media would tell you to give up your right to privacy … DON’T
  • If you feel you absolutely MUST use a site demanding your private info, then give them fake ID. Do NOT give them your real birth date etc.
  • Because if you do … you WILL regret it … bank on it

As you can see from my outburst this topic really gets me going and I guess the point I was trying to make is there’s privacy .. and then there’s privacy isn’t there (rhetorical question).

So let’s not be hypocrites about this. How much privacy are we prepared to lose before we finally say enough is enough, especially when we consider that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg thinks there is no such thing as online privacy?

No Mr. Scoble I flatly reject your premise, and it is never acceptable to go soft on our privacy and raise the white flag. It’s dangerous enough that people are posting their private lives online, but our private info too? How private is “private”, and where will all this end? Good God …With all due respect only a near-sighted twit would give in to the shenanigans of a privacy-terrorist like Mark Zuckerberg.

Make your stand now or forever hold your peace.

Captain Kirk once told me the best defense is an offense. Now that he’s a lawyer (Denny Crane) I guess he knows what he’s talking about.

The premise for this post is “Has facebook Gone Too Far? Privacy and Security in a Social Media World: The Best Defence is an Offence” … meaning — don’t give it up (your private info) in the first place.

Play it safe. That is the only way you can be certain your online privacy will be protected.

What do you think? Am I right or should I give up the battle for privacy too (or should I write a book like Scoble has suggested).


UPDATE: I’m not an expert in online privacy law but it seems to me this is a legal issue (or ought to be) as well as a moral one. When it comes to our private info Facebook should not be allowed to arbitrarily change the TOS (terms of service) after we joined and sell our private info to the highest bidder.

Especially considering how difficult it is (if not impossible) to delete our account (which is the crux of the matter here).

My friend Tarheel_Rambler pointed out the “terms of service get changed all the time .. there’s even language included saying they have that option”.

Yes that’s true, BUT the point is thanks to Facebook it’s a new world out there now. Or as Mr. Zuckerberg likes to say the rules are-a-changing .. and it goes both ways as far as I’m concerned. Tit for tat.

The TOS is a legal contract between both parties and someone should take them to task on that. If their attitude is we can just leave if we don’t like it, then our private information should go with us as well .. NOT remain on Facebook’s servers.

If there are insufficient laws at this time to enforce it then we need legislators with the kahunas to make it happen.

Like my friend Mitch also pointed out it’s completely unethical for Facebook to bait and switch us after joining. Jeff Jarvis has also entered the fray .. and my response? This is not a discussion just for academics.

The old rules should no longer apply to privacy terrorists like Zuckerberg. It’s too bad I no longer practice litigation because I would have loved to sink my teeth in this one.

Any takers? Are you out there Deny Crane? Alan Shore perhaps … or how about you?

Filed under: Featured Articles, Miscellaneous Blog Tips, Privacy Tips, Security Tips, Social Media Tips blog tweets, facebook, social networking, twitter

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There are 56 Comments so far to “Has Facebook Gone Too Far?”

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  1. First off-a book would probably be very succesful so you should definitely go for it. On a more serious note, you may remember the other evening that I was surprised it was illegal to ask for a birthdate in Canada on a website. I think many of the privacy issues we have are due at least in part to our own ignorance of what people can do with just a small amount of information. Education is key. People need to understand more about privacy practices rather than just tossing those standard documents you get mailed or clicking through through the fine print on a social network. I like this post and maybe it will spur some to actually read the TOS on their networks-i guarantee most people don’t read them even with all the privacy issues going on right now. If you get a book deal I want a signed copy!!

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 1:26 pm said...

    @Kristina Summers, thanks Kristina .. just to clarify it’s not illegal to “ask” for private info like our birthdate.

    But it is illegal in certain jurisdictions to ‘demand’ it. Normally only the government, banks or employers (for tax purposes) can insist on birthdates etc.

    A social media website does not have the legislative authority to demand our birthdate, but because it owns the website it can decline letting us use it. But I would argue these sites are taking advantage of gullible kids who don’t know any better to harvest information (like Facebook does).

    We cannot and should not be forced to contract out of our lawful rights just to use a social media website.

    In my opinion legislators need to get off their fat ass and stop these scumbag sites taking advantage of people’s naivety, especially considering how social media is becoming more entrenched in society.

    Influential bloggers/marketers also need to educate their readers of its dangers thereof instead of just trying making a buck off them.

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  2. I think we are all better off going back to ICQ numbers and Mirc for Communicating on the web social media is going too far.

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 4:32 pm said...

    @Roezer, remember ICQs online notice? … “Uh Oh!” It’s even more applicable today don’t you think. ;-)

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    Reply by: Roezer at 4:36 pm said...

    @BLOGBloke, with Facebook it will be for many Uh Oh! my Credit Card

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 5:16 pm said...

    @Roezer, I was just thinking the same thing. That will be their next strategy I suppose.

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  3. You are right on. I was making a Facebook page for my blog and they tried to recommend it to all my personal contacts and even people I only tangentially know — wtf? I didn’t recall asking them to do that.

    With a lot of these services you have to be *very* careful or you’re practically begging for identity theft, spam, stalkers etc.

    This post reminded me of Kathy Sierra. Privacy is no joke.

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 4:23 pm said...

    @JohnFTM, another excuse I’m tired of hearing is they require birth dates to weed out children. Apparently they’re hanging around porn sites too often because we all know how easy it is to lie about our age. There’s no way of testing the veracity of a user’s statement .. what a joke.

    Seems to me protecting the safety of our children starts with the parents, and blocking Facebook on our browsers is a good place to start.

    If they really are so worried about protecting our children then why aren’t they equally concerned with our privacy rights, and automatically remove info like birth dates from our account once it’s been created (or at least give us the option to remove it).

    Here’s another one for you .. changing our Facebook profile info can trigger someone contacting us for interrogation to squeeze even more information from us.

    Just who the hell do they think they are?

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    Reply by: Curtis at 1:56 am said...

    @JohnFTM, doesnt surprise me at all. Thats they way FB is becoming.

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  4. Right on the money!!!! Give them a fake birth date–absolutely! I’ve experienced way too many cyber *stalkers* to know it’s wise to be cagey! :-) Excellent post as always!

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 5:27 pm said...

    @Kuanyin, even if the reason for birth dates really is to screen children, then there would be no reason for retaining the information on their database. Shouldn’t we at least have the option to delete it from our profile if we don’t want it?

    Control of our private information should be in our hands .. not theirs. How can we trust an organization that admits its disdain for our privacy and flip-flops on its TOS like the weather.

    After all, who’s profile is it really? Facebook’s or ours?

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  5. Fake name fake birth date or fake email. I am increasing becoming leary of Facebook and doing anything on there around birthdays. T.M.I. too much information….

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 5:20 pm said...

    @Curtis, the other day I received an email from Facebook to my private address inviting me to join. Now get this .. I never gave my private email to Facebook. Only a few personal friends have that address and none of them are on Facebook either. And the invitations came directly from Facebook — not from a user.

    So apparently spamming our private email that they harvested somewhere isn’t beneath their dignity either. How low can you go?

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    Reply by: Curtis at 1:53 am said...

    @BLOGBloke, aparently pretty low.

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  6. @Roezer, I was just thinking the same thing. That will be their next strategy I suppose. http://www.blogbloke.com/privacy-securit…

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    Reply by: Roezer at 8:14 pm said...

    @BLOGBlokeTips Join #Facebank Today

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    Reply by: Roezer at 8:39 pm said...

    @BLOGBlokeTips No you just Deposit your Soul #Facebank look after the rest

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    Reply by: BLOGBlokeTips at 9:21 pm said...

    @Roezer MooHoo HaHaHa!

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  7. Of course you know I have a different take on some of this.

    To get this one out of the way, I’m trying to figure out how FB harvested your personal email address. I say that because they’ve never harvested mine, and don’t have access to mine, and I’ve had that same email address since 1996. It just seems odd they’d pick on you and not everyone. The only way I could have seen them get it is if someone you know, or someone looking for you, went that route, and I know you said it came from FB and not anyone you know, but it just seems weird.

    On the privacy issue, I guess I see it slightly differently being American. Here, they have the right to ask for a birth date, and we have the right to either deny it or give it up. I gave it up, but I also chose to hide it from everyone else, so my name will never pop up with any notice saying it’s my birthday; not that I can trust those few people who know when it is to keep silent, but they all missed the actual date last year.

    And, like you, I don’t like this thing where they were going to give information to their marketers. I blocked that, and last night you and I talked about how Congress wants them investigated by the FTC, mainly for the advertising aspect, but I believe it should be an investigation by the FCC for giving out private information in the first place “after the fact”; that’s really my only gripe, since had I know coming in that was going to be a default I might not have signed up, but being there 2 years kind of negates that.

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 11:59 pm said...

    @Mitch, you are a lot more trusting than I am because given Zuckerberg’s dubious character and public disdain for our privacy I now assume the worst.

    I don’t feel picked on at all and if Facebook can spam me I’m sure there are others that have had a similar experience. How they got my private email isn’t as much an issue for me than the fact they used it to spam me. And the fact that they now have it in their grubby hands is of great concern to me, and who knows where it will end up.

    Regarding voluntarily giving up our birth date, the issue as far as I’m concerned is the more entrenched social media becomes in society it may end up no longer being just a choice whether or not to participate.

    I can foresee the day social media becoming a part of everyday life in modern society (for everyone) and there will be no choice but to participate. By then however it might be to late if we are lax in protecting our privacy rights today.

    In other words I’m looking at the bigger picture down the road.

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    Reply by: Mitch at 7:21 am said...

    @BLOGBloke, I know you’re looking at the big picture down the road, but I’m trying to be at least a little bit pragmatic. If you remember, I related it to having a driver’s license. Just because you live in the country and need a driver’s license so you can get to your job or other things doesn’t suddenly make it a right; at least in this country it doesn’t. It’s still considered a privilege, and thus if you decide you want to drive you have to give up all sorts of personal information, and pay a lot of money to get that license.

    In my mind, unless you live in New York City or Los Angeles, driving will always be more important than social media, which means none of us have to give up anything we don’t want to. We just don’t participate in the process, and if it leaves us behind, then so be it. As an independent consultant, I’ve been told multiple times that I need to learn how to golf, because I’m missing out on deals that happen on the golf course. I could care less about potential deals I may or may not be missing if it involves something I don’t want to do; that’s my choice.

    Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t like what FB is suddenly doing with our information; that seems disingenuous at best. It means that, on balance, we volunteered to do some things, and we still have the right to cancel our accounts and move on.

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 8:36 am said...

    @Mitch, funny you should mention being pragmatic because practical is my middle name.

    Using your driving analogy it wasn’t that long ago when horse and buggy was the primary mode of transportation (fur hundreds of years). In today’s age just ask anyone who can’t afford a car how much a privilege driving is. I’m sure most would agree (excepting the conservationists) that driving is for all practical purposes a requirement for getting around today if you want to compete. I know this from personal experience because I’ve had no car for 3 years (it was stolen and never replaced by insurance) and I can assure you it is really inconvenient relying on public transportation. If you don’t believe me just try shopping for groceries on the bus with only 2 hands.

    Whether or not you want to label it a privilege, mark my words it won’t be long before it will be necessary to have a LinkedIn account to find a job. Especially after the printed newspapers have faded into oblivion. The times are-a-changing and social media will be pragmatic and a necessity.

    Remember, the premise of this post is when is enough .. enough? After your so-called privileges are gone what will you do then? If you don’t fight for your rights and let the pimple-faced geeks take it away then you will have no right to complain after it’s gone.

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    Reply by: Mitch at 8:58 am said...

    @BLOGBloke, Since we’ve just recently met, you probably never had the opportunity to read my blog post from back in January on this same topic. Overall, privacy is gone the minute you put anything online. Unless you’re super savvy, which most people are, you can be tracked and found by anyone who wants to give it a try, unless you’re in one of those backward countries (yeah, I said it) that could care less what their citizens do online (I had a problem with that as well).

    I don’t buy the thing about what people will have to do. For instance, I have lost a lot of consulting assignments because the companies want to do a drug test, and I refuse; this happens mainly in the south. I refuse because I’m an incorporated business, and my point is that if they don’t require that of anyone else who comes into their facility to help them out, i.e. plumbers, electricians, etc, then they have no right to ask me to do it. I stand on my principle, and I accept that I’ll lose some business that way. If anyone decides they have to do something, it means they give up their freedom and their principles; that’s on them, and has nothing to do with reality or privacy.

    However, we can still protect certain aspects of our privacy. I’m pretty sure that my weight isn’t anywhere online because I’ve never given it out, and my physicians aren’t using electronic medical records yet. Sure, people can guess based on pictures of me, but they don’t know for sure. There’s plenty people don’t know about me, even as public as I’ve been. The reality is that if someone wants to know all sorts of things about me they can go onto a search engine, pop in my name, and then pay as little as $4.95 for the information. Frankly, that troubles me way more than anything Facebook could ever do, but there’s absolutely nothing I, or anyone else, can do about it.

    By the way, if you’d like to see that post of mine, it’s here: http://www.imjustsharing.com/do-we-deserve-privacy-online/ Great discussion!

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 9:11 am said...

    @Mitch, yes but remember one of the things I object to most is birth dates. With your name and birth date anyone can find find everything about you (and I mean everything). Facebook makes birth date a requirement when we create an account. Whether or not I prefer the Beatles over the Stones is not a big deal for me.

    Regarding your statement about what we will have to do vs. what we choose to do .. perhaps it’s just me but I find your argument contradictory. You acknowledge losing work to retain your privacy. Well what happens when every company demands it? What then? Do you stop eating or just wave the white flag?

    Same goes for social media. If you don’t speak up now then forever hold your peace.

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  8. great post - I dont like how facebook tells everyone its your birthday - that is never a good thing

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 6:09 pm said...

    @jason, thanks and glad that you liked it. Just doing my part to get the word out.

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  9. Update: Do you think #Facebook should be sued for changing the TOS after we joined? Come join the party http://www.blogbloke.com/privacy-securit…

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    Reply by: BLOGBlokeTips at 6:02 am said...

    @Tarheel_Rambler .. yes .. BUT, like Zuckerberg says the rules are-a-changing .. and it goes both ways .. tit for tat ..

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    Reply by: BLOGBlokeTips at 6:02 am said...

    @Tarheel_Rambler .. read the bottom of my post to see what I mean http://www.blogbloke.com/privacy-securit…

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  10. I have lost my account on fb how do I retrieve it?

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 10:37 pm said...

    @Liza Fonda, have you considered that might be a good thing? ;-) You will have to contact Facebook directly to find out why. In the mean time check out a nice alternative .. amplify.com

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  11. Killed my account the other day. The endless barrage of high school theatrics coupled with the privacy issues just became too much.

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 5:35 pm said...

    @Rich, good for you. The only reason I still have an account is I use a pseudonym and they have none of my personal information.

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  12. You know, just to add to this entire discussion, a bit of historical background tells us that Zuckerberg actually got his start by breaking into the computers at Harvard and getting into the personal records of girls on campus so he could set up a way to rank them, if you know what I mean. So, it pretty much follows that he’s never wanted any privacy on anything, mainly for his own purposes.

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 8:56 pm said...

    @Mitch, I heard something like that myself and it’s another reason why I’m so anti-facebook. From what I’ve heard of the guy he has sociopathic tendencies and would be the last person on earth we want running a social network.

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  13. Social comments and analytics for this post

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by BlogBlokeTips: Privacy and Security in a Social Media World: The Best Defence is an Offence http://bit.ly/8XDcTg

  14. @Curtis, the other day I received an email from Facebook to my private address inviting me to join. Now get this ….. http://bit.ly/bfMGRJ

  15. @Kuanyin, if the reason for birth dates really is to screen children then they have no reason for retaining the inf… http://bit.ly/bfMGRJ

  16. @Mitch_M .. you should leave a comment on my post and shake things up http://bit.ly/bfMGRJ

  17. Of course you know I have a different take on some of this.

    To get this one out of the way, I'm trying to figure… http://bit.ly/bfMGRJ

  18. […] Privacy and Security in a Social Media World: The Best Defence is an Offence www.blogbloke.com/privacy-security-social-media – view page – Last evening I read a post by Scoble saying he has all but given up the battle for privacy and that we should do the same […]

  19. @Mitch, you are lot more trusting than I am because given Zuckerberg's dubious character and public disdain for our… http://bit.ly/bfMGRJ

  20. @BLOGBloke, I know you're looking at the big picture down the road, but I'm trying to be at least a little bit prag… http://bit.ly/bfMGRJ

  21. @Mitch, funny you should mention pragmatic because being practical is my middle name.

    Using your driving analogy… http://bit.ly/bfMGRJ

  22. @Mitch, yes I agree but my main focus for this post is birth dates. With your name and birth date anyone can find f… http://bit.ly/bfMGRJ

  23. @jason, thanks and glad that you liked it. Just doing my part to get the word out. http://bit.ly/bfMGRJ

  24. […] I’ve had some interesting conversations with my buddy Blog Bloke over his post Privacy and Security in a Social Media World, I have to admit that he’s got it right on many aspects of what’s going on now. Not […]

  25. @Scobleizer .. unfortunately @jeffjarvis does not get it. Nor is this an academic discussion http://bit.ly/bfMGRJ

  26. For a bit of Facebook balance http://bit.ly/9vKWF1 v http://bit.ly/bYj3NQ

  27. Update: Do you think #Facebook should be sued for changing the TOS after we joined? Come join the party http://bit.ly/bfMGRJ

  28. @Tarheel_Rambler .. read the bottom of my post to see what I mean http://bit.ly/bfMGRJ

  29. RT @BlogBlokeTips Should Facebook be sued for changing the TOS after we joined? Join the party http://bit.ly/bfMGRJ

  30. @Liza Fonda, have you considered that might be a good thing? ;-) You will have to contact Facebook directly to find… http://bit.ly/bfMGRJ

  31. @Rich, good for you. The only reason I still have an account is I use a pseudonym and they have none of my personal… http://bit.ly/bfMGRJ

  32. You know, just to add to this entire discussion, a bit of historical background tells us that Zuckerberg actually g… http://bit.ly/bfMGRJ

  33. @Mitch, I heard something like that myself and it's another reason why I'm so anti-facebook. From what I've heard o… http://bit.ly/bfMGRJ

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