Facebook’s (new) Privacy Settings – Helping Stalkers since 2004

About three weeks ago I wrote a blog post about Facebook’s IPOand its possible effect on the users. I promised I would write a follow-up if some of the things I predicted should turn out to be true. Recent events of Facebook have now given me the reason to do so.

What do Facebook and the German election system have in common since this Friday?

They both have a depressingly low voter turnout.

Facebook was letting the nearly 1 billion users vote on changes about the often discussed privacy settings. That included changes about the new Timeline and mainly the use of people’s information. Key aspect was a new policy which allows Facebook to use our data for ad targeting outside of the social network. That means that all the information about the consumer’s hobbies, likes or favorites will be used for target marketing. Apart from that all your messages and private mails are saved and won’t even be deleted if you delete your account. Journalist Sara Yin has listed 10 Things you should know about the new privacy settings.

Why now, you might ask?

Well for once the IPO in a way forces Facebook to show a continuous growth and profitability since it now has a responsibility towards the shareholders. As I have mentioned in my last blog post the social networks main source of money is advertisement and product placement on the homepage. That is exactly the reason why the company intends to loosen up the privacy settings in order to follow that business model even more intensely in the future.
To the surprise of many shareholders the Facebook IPO was a rather huge disappointment. After just closing 23 cents above the initial price of $38 on the first day the stock has fallen another 23 percent in the last two weeks. Now Zuckerberg needs to come up with new ideas to increase the value for the shareholders.

How did the voting end?

About a week ago our fellow blogger stefochka has written a post about the privacy voting  with the intention to invoke the people to participate. She and other bloggers gave many great reasons to do so however it seems like the majority of Facebook users was too lazy or indifferent to vote. This is a general problem of society because democracy is only valid if people take advantage of it!

Still, I do have to admit that the social network didn’t make it easy for the consumers to vote. First of all at least thirty percent of the almost 1 billion users have to participate, other wise the vote will be considered “advisory”. 30 percent doesn’t sound like that much but please don’t faint when I tell you the final number of voters after the deadline, Friday 6 pm:

Less than 0,5 percent.

That’s right folks not even one tiny percent of the users cared enough to voice their opinion. However out of the 0,5 percent more than 80 percent were against the new privacy settings. If enough people would have voted, the private information collected by Zuckerberg & Co. would be a lot more private now.

A call for people to vote – made by a private user

Why didn’t more people vote?

For once a lot of people criticized that the voting was just staged and that the documents about the new settings were incomplete. Right from the beginning Facebook intended to enforce the new policy. More than 10,000 critical comments on said policy were left with no reply. In addition the social network did too little to even promote the voting. If it weren’t for blogs or online press only the 2,2 million users who subscribed to the FB-Governance site would have known about it. Max Schrems, speaker of  europe-v-facebook.org, said in the statement:

Facebook is again fooling its users: First they give you that whole speech about user participation, and then they hide the polling station, just to be sure. It seems their motto is that democracy is only allowed if the results are right. Zuckerberg seems to have taken democracy lessons in China.

In the past the Facebook privacy settings have often been target of parodies such as the slogan “Facebook – helping stalkers since 2004“. However things have progressed into a whole new dimension. We are not just talking about information such as where I eat my lunch right now and with whom. We are talking about brutal target advertisement and profit-making at a loss for the users.
Still curious? Check out this amazing Infograph about Social Media Privacy!