Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.


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All Facebook is reporting that Facebook has called an all-hands come-to-Jesus meeting on the subject of privacy for later this afternoon.

I can only wonder aloud to myself whether or not anyone will be channeling the late George Orwell, but as someone who works for a company which was once targeted as the consummate Big Brother in a 1984 TV spot by the (at the time) upstart competition, I can only say to Facebook “Good luck with that.”

Of course, there’s much more at stake with Facebook’s recent moves than the simple erosion of our privacy. 

An underlying philosophical approach to the future of the cloud as a platform the evolution of marketing is at stake, and one in which, at least for Facebook, personal interests and information become the lubricant that keeps all the moving pieces humming, and paves the way for a post-modern marketing future that could make the moving eye billboards in “Minority Report” seem innocuous.

They’ve been here before. 

First in 2006 with the advent of their Newsfeed (which later proved to be THE killer app that set the stage for Facebook’s hockey stick growth), and later with Beacon (the ad-serving network Facebook announced which was to send info from other websites back to the FB mother ship — which they were compelled to withdraw after a public outcry).

With the advent of Social Plug-Ins and the new Open Graph API, and the move to turn pieces of personal information into interoperable Lego pieces that would serve as key bricks in their new grand social graph design, many seem to be suggesting Facebook has gone one opt-in too far.

Or was that opt out?

All I know is that in 1984, when George Orwell painted a picture of a grand dystopian vision in which the government exerts complete control, he didn’t have the opportunity for using the commercial Internet as part of his palette. 

If he had, Everyman Winston Smith might soon have found himself trying to hack his way out of the Open Graph instead of trying to eliminate an unperson.

But the doublethink here is that the big picture looming behind Facebook’s architectural disruptions actually could bring about some good.  

The ability to “Like” on a grand scale could bring together large groups of like-minded people together with great efficiency, and depending on the granted consumer privacy controls, even with some PII friendliness.

To which one must ask the logical question, then what? 

Would our collective like-mindedness lead us to some positive outcomes and groupthink, or might it instead evolve us into a massive collective of whining counterparties, a global divide consisting of Jets on one side, and Sharks on the other?

Can we all just get along? 

Perhaps, perhaps not. 

But unless the noble, and controversial, Facebook experiment is allowed to continue unabated – preferably with dramatically increased control over the use of our personal information, not to mention some easy to use instructions — we may never gain a glimpse into the upside opportunity that may have lain behind Orwell’s imagined telescreen.

And if we are destined to a dystopian Big Brother future, ought not we be the ones helping to determine Facebook’s grand plan as to who’s watching and when?

I don’t think George Orwell would have had it any other way.

Written by turbotodd

May 13, 2010 at 3:28 pm

One Response

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  1. This is an interesting one. In a class I had freshman year we actually had a similar conversation to the ones going on around Facebook and concerns over privacy, and how much is too much – but it was in regards to the coupons you get as you check out at the grocery store.

    Your purchases are being monitored, how often you go to the store is being monitored and you’re receiving somewhat custom coupons based upon your profile. Getting simple, let’s correlate this to Facebook ads. Because I am a 22 year old female, I get ads regarding singles websites and cupcakes. Now – I have no interest in the singles sites, but I do have an interest in cupcakes. They have me pegged. Is it annoying? Maybe a little, but at the same time, it cuts through all of the other junk I wouldn’t want to see up in the margin. I at least “get” why these are the ads coming to me.

    Of course when you think about it, is is Big Brother-y, but it’s our faults for demanding convenience, relevance and accuracy. I think the struggle has been and will continue to be the question of how much is too much? Consider signing up to be a part of Facebook’s social network the equivalent of getting your coupon for Polly-O string cheese at the Shop Rite register.


    May 17, 2010 at 3:27 pm

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