On the daily

Facebook under fire

On the very day I am trying to wean myself off Facebook and get back to blogging, Kate at Morning News Beat writes:

Kate’s BlogBeat: Betty White, Trader Joe’s & You

by Kate McMahon

Facebook fans have
successfully rallied online to bring Betty White to Saturday Night Live
and Trader Joe’s to Omaha.

Now, ironically, one group is calling
for a mass exodus from the dominant social networking site, defining May
31st as “Quit Facebook Day.” At the same time, their comrades are
posting online petitions and demanding changes, or else.

The hot
button issue is privacy – with tech pundits, the mainstream media and
hordes of bloggers slamming Facebook for compromising users’ personal

While the website quitfacebookday.com only shows
5,398 “committed quitters” out of a Facebook universe of more than 425
million users, the blogs are buzzing with discontent. A Facebook page
entitled “Millions Against Facebook’s Privacy Policies and Layout
Redesign” is urging its 2.27 million members to lodge formal complaints
with Congress and the Federal Trade Commission. I just received one news
feed from a friend asking me to sign a Facebook privacy petition and
another on how to revise my privacy settings.

In the past month,
Facebook scrambled to deal with a glitch which allowed private chat
conversations to be visible to a user’s friends and other tech gaffes.
But it was an intentional move – the introduction of a new Facebook
feature called Open Graph – that added fuel to the fire.

short, Open Graph gives third-party marketers access to members’ names,
friends’ lists, interests and hobbies – unless the users manually “opts
out” of that feature. For example, if you list Jimmy Buffett (like the
Content Guy would) or Taylor Swift (c’est moi) as your favorite
musical artist, you may get a personalized pitch about said singer from
Pandora, the internet radio service. Welcome, or invasive?

with the opt-out option, people are balking, and bailing.

you agree that Facebook doesn’t respect you, your personal data, or the
future of the web, you may want to join us,” say the founders of Quit
Facebook Day.

Members of Congress have joined the fray, and the
Electronic Privacy Information Center and 14 other groups have filed a
complaint with the FTC. And Google reports that the top online search
related to “Facebook account” is – “delete Facebook.”

As with all
things related to the internet, changes are occurring at lightning
speed. “It’s clear that we keep discovering new boundaries of privacy
that are possible to push and just as quickly breached,” said James E.
Katz, professor of communications at Rutgers University, told the New
York Times

And the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
reports that “a Facebook official said Tuesday the company plans to
unveil new simplified privacy options in response to the backlash from
some of the social networking giant's members.

"We have heard
from our users that our efforts to provide granular control have made
things too complex," spokesman Larry Yu wrote in an e-mail. "Of course,
we're working on responding to these concerns, but we don't have
anything further to announce."

I suspect it won’t take long.
After all, Facebook’s founding premise is that it allows people to be
responsive and connected; it would be ironic if the company itself were
not responsive and connected to member concerns.

So, what is the
retailer takeaway on this?

First of all, don’t delude yourself
that all this contretemps means the end or even diminution of social
media. This is a speed bump, nothing more.

However, the debate
reinforces the importance of paying attention to consumer privacy
concerns. It isn’t just on social media; it extends to loyalty
marketing, where marketers need to be keenly aware of the fact of
privacy as an evolving and growing consumer priority.

If you want
shopper participation in a loyalty program, or through Facebook,
Twitter or an active website, they need to feel secure that it is indeed
a two-way, closed relationship, and their personal information and
shopping preferences will not be sold or bartered.

And keep it
simple. Facebook’s privacy policy is 5,830 words long, dwarfing the
verbiage of the U.S. Constitution. (MNB’s privacy policy, by the way,
consists of two dozen words: “We promise not to bother you with a lot
of junk e-mail, and not to give your name out to anybody or any

Finally, if you are a Facebook user, check your
privacy settings. It can be tedious and time-consuming, but effective.
And we should all follow the advice we give our teenagers – remember
that once it’s out there, it’s out there.

Comments? Send me
an email at

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