Wednesday marked the third somewhat annual meeting of Facebook developers in California called the F8 (pronounced “fate”) conference. Amid rumors of Internet domination and privacy obliteration, Mark Zuckerberg calmly announced , among other, slightly less press-worthy items, that Facebook would be launching the universal “like” button (a.k.a the Facebook Monster) so that users could thumbs up individual web pages and publish that to Facebook for their friends to see. The button/monster is designed to embed Facebook functionality outside of Facebook and allow web page publishers to tailor content to a user based on his/her like history. Users will also be able to tell which of their friends have liked the same web page or news story or whatever.
Now I can understand why people are getting all up in arms about privacy. Facebook has the potential to collect the motherload of data about user preferences, interests an buying habits and channel this information to advertisers or the CIA. However, during the F8 conference, Facebook did not make any official ad announcement, only that they didn’t have plans to change their current policy which allows developers to apply user data to target ads on their own site.
Phillip Rhoades wrote a great post earlier this week explaining why he thought these changes were “just some new toys, not the death of privacy,” and I agree. People are worried about Facebook becoming Big Brother and when the media uses phrases like “Facebook extended its tentacles across the internet today” and “its claws for pulling in outside content are now razor-sharp,” the privacy nervousness gets a little more acute. But users should remember that if they agree to make something public by clicking a like button – it’s public. And as Christina Warren says over at Mashable, “public no longer means ‘public on Facebook,’ public means ‘public in the Facebook ecosystem.’”
Just learn how to properly use Facebook’s privacy settings and educate yourself about how the personalized feeds work, and you’ll avoid the slimy tentacles and razor-sharp claws of the Facebook monster. And maybe, just maybe you’ll start to like the personalized playlist Pandora has put together for you based on what bands you have liked elsewhere on the web. I think that might be pretty cool.