All Your Data Are Belong To Us

Driven, finally, by the decline of social activity on Myspace to open a real Facebook account, I find it wryly amusing that the very next day, Facebook management have a major (private) meeting to discuss “privacy”. Or rather, to brainstorm some sugary, anodyne comments in response to all of the criticism and bad publicity that Facebook has been receiving in the recent past.

US Senators, the ACLU, European Data Protection officials: everyone has been carping at poor Facebook. Not primarily about security problems and hacked information, although there have been such episodes. The main complaint currently is that the default privacy settings are too open, and that fixing them is too complicated and not obvious for the average, non-technical user. Actually, even as an uber-technical user, I found I had to poke around quite a bit to get an idea of what was going on.

A report this week by the New York Times revealed that Facebook’s privacy mechanism has 50 different settings and 170 options. The paper also found that the “privacy policy” is longer than the US Constitution with 5,830 words.  (And not as poetic.)

There’s a very telling anaysis in this blog, which shows how access to profile data, contact information, photos, exchange of comments and so on, have all been made more accessible to the Internet at large every time Facebook’s “privacy” settings have been changed.

But we shouldn’t be too surprised. When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had just started operating the system, way, way back in 2004, he’s supposed to have had the following IM chat with a friend. The transcript has been obtained and released by Business Insider

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard

Zuck: Just ask.

Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS

[Friend]: What? How’d you manage that one?

Zuck: People just submitted it.

Zuck: I don’t know why.

Zuck: They “trust me”

Zuck: Dumb fucks

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