Facebook and the battle over “choice and informed consent”

Danah Boyd boiled over today and, fortunately, a keyboard was nearby.  The Facebook revolution is upon us and the shit they are trying to pull is downright sneaky.  I know it’s a long post, but it’s important.  Here’s a choice tidbit:

The battle that is underway is not a battle over the future of privacy and publicity. It’s a battle over choice and informed consent. It’s unfolding because people are being duped, tricked, coerced, and confused into doing things where they don’t understand the consequences. Facebook keeps saying that it gives users choices, but that is completely unfair. It gives users the illusion of choice and hides the details away from them “for their own good.”

You want to know why it’s bad – THAT’s why it’s bad.  And scary.  When Facebook throws its 400 million users around, it moves with potentially unstoppable momentum.  I had a young lawyer tell me that, for him, Facebook was like the telephone.  He and his friends don’t think about what’s going on behind the curtain, they just accept Facebook as a necessary cummunication apparatus.

Ask yourself these questions: could you give it up right now?  Are there people that are important to you  with whom you only communicate via Facebook?  Would you still communicate with those folks if you had no Facebook?  Does Facebook have you by the short ones?

Read Boyd’s blog posts and stay informed.   Facebook has become extraordinarily powerful and remains unregulated and unchallenged.  With the recent ‘open graph’ gambit Facebook is showing that it does not even pretend to adhere to Google’s ‘Don’t be evil’ mantra.  We are, just in the past few weeks hearing a tiny uptick in dissent, but with the number of users absolutely committed to the platform, Facebook is well positioned to do a great deal of harm.

From the “Starred Items” in my Google Reader

It doesn’t matter who the author really is, just as long as you like the books.

Eloquent recommendations for your media consumption.

The issue of privacy has been much on my mind, especially after finishing Ken Auletta‘s fine new book about the monster from Mountain View.  Matthew Ingram gets you up to date on the Google convection in Italy and the fact that Google IS a media company.  And Danah Boyd reports from Harvard about evolving privacy norms in the context of teens using Facebook.  Let me put it this way: fifteen years ago, if you knew someone was opening, reading, and analyzing all your mail, would that have been OK with you?  But now you don’t mind?  The world is changing and so are you.

(SPOILER ALERT for links only)  Finally, Tamara from Caprica looks like a total bad-ass with her sub-machine gun because she IS a total bad-ass.  Annalee Newitz knows how good the show is.  Are you watching the best show on television?

Just decided to start reading @zephoria (Danah Boyd) – intense analysis of social networking


Everybody’s got an opinion on how all this social networking stuff works.  You mess with it long enough, and you start to see trends or patterns.  I can’t help but wonder what it means and how it fits into the ongoing narrative of human civilization.  Do all these fancy toys and technological innovations change anything?  I’m thinking Ms. Boyd may not have all the answers, but she’s got insane credentials and she’s working hard in this field.  So, I’m in.

Added @zephoria to my Twitter feed and apophenia to my RSS feed.  It’s dense, but it looks red hot.