Facebook isn’t free

Just a few points that I wanted to make in response to the conversation I was having with Dave Schwartz on Twitter about Facebook’s ever-changing privacy policy and the growing complaints about it that doesn’t quite fit in 140 characters:

  • Facebook isn’t “free” for users. It doesn’t cost them money (unless they’re buying gifts or game credits or whatever), but the cost of entry is data. The more data you put in, presumably the more you can get out. Tell Facebook where you went to high school and reconnect will former classmates. Tell Facebook who your family and friends are and be fed their updates and feel connected. Tell Facebook what your interests are and possibly gain new friends.
  • Facebook has the right to control its own product and set its terms of service in any way that is legal.
  • Users have every right to complain and still use the service. Just like if you wish the service on your AT&T iPhone was better.
  • Facebook isn’t one-size-fits all and offers different privacy settings for that reason. Some users will be willing to give up more information than others. I live pretty publicly online. I use my real name everywhere. My phone number isn’t hard to find. I don’t have creepy people in my past that I don’t want finding that information. The equation will be different for different people. Individuals need to make that calculation on their own.
  • Decide the tradeoffs aren’t worth it? Users have the right to leave if they feel the bargain is no longer fair. Users have the right to delete data. (Does Facebook honor this right?)

I don’t think Dave and I are far off. I think we both believe users have to be smart about what they’re feeding Facebook. But it’s also important to recognize that there are people feeding Facebook a ton of data and not really thinking about it. The (loud and growing) complaints are good for them, too, so that they have reason to think about what the cost of Facebook is to them.

3 thoughts on “Facebook isn’t free”

  1. I think you said (wrote) it well. How much data are people comfortable putting online and, more importantly, are people aware of how and where that information will be used?

    What I find troubling is that Facebook changed the rules. “Come on in. Please, join us for dinner. Be our guest. … OK, now that will be $49.95 and you’ll have to sit through this presentation about time shares in Key West.”

    Facebook can do what it wants. People can do what they want. I truly hope that when a Facebook user chooses to make their information private that Facebook will honor that request. Without having even a shred of evidence, and using only my cynicism as a guide, I don’t think Facebook, in the end, will be honorable. I just don’t. It has too much power and temptation at its fingertips.

    OK, I’m rambling. Good post. Good conversation.

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