Facebook must be cut from the same cloth.
On Thursday, MacWorld senior editor Christopher Breen posted a column explaining why he'd given up and deactivated his Facebook account.
His chief complaint? Breen writes:
Rather than responding to people's very real concerns about how the service shares its users' personal information, Facebook has determined to attack it as nothing more than a PR problem.... [I]t's not about PR or how we seem to misunderstand Facebook's message.
He points to a page in The New York Times to illustrate his point. There, Facebook's public policy VP, Elliot Schrabe, answered a smattering of questions from users about the security and privacy of their information. The most unnerving (and irritating) answer went something like this:
Everything is opt-in on Facebook. Participating in the service is a choice. We want people to continue to choose Facebook every day. Adding information - uploading photos or posting status updates or "liking" a page - are also all opt-in. Please don't share if you're not comfortable.
Yes, Facebook is opt in. If people don't want to participate, they are not compelled to do so. But to reiterate the entire point of Breen's column, it's not that users don't want to share. It's that they don't want to share with everyone. There's a big difference, and the convoluted manner in which the Facebook privacy settings are currently configured makes it too dificult for the average user to make completely informed decisions, he says.
Breen then goes on to explain a manner in which Facebook could structure its privacy settings so that even the least tech savvy among its users would have no problem understanding and configuring them. He says:
When I sign up for a Facebook account I should see this:
Would you like us to share the information you post on your wall with third-parties (including advertisers)?
No it is. Now let's talk about the friends you specifically invite to view your wall and what they can do with your information.
And off you go...
Interestingly, Facebook has apparently called an all hands meeting for 4 p.m. PT Thursday to discuss its privacy strategy. Think they'll even consider Breen's approach?
I doubt it.