Can I Use My Debit Card Number As My Facebook User Name?

Hey, guess what: Facebook privacy is about 10% as important as the digital literati like Jason Calacanis or Walt Mossberg make it out to be. And let me explain why. Because jumping on a topical bandwagon really just sells conference tickets, drives more video views or increases one's email subscribers – okay, so a couple new people may read TechDrawl as a result :-) And as the Ban Facebook movement flop proved, nobody’s mom or dad gives a damn. In fact, didn’t those 26 psycho teabaggers make a bigger dent on public policy?

There are two basic things to remember when considering the question of Facebook and privacy: 1) There ain’t no playbook for how to deal with a 400M+ community whose demographics are 9-80; and 2) Facebook is simply the largest example of digital oversharing, which is a social computing trend that’s here to stay.

Now granted, it’s unfortunate that Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t been media trained very well but the hyperbole around him being evil incarnate is clearly inflated. Having spent multiple years of my professional career defining privacy and operational policies for a big brown shipping company in Atlanta, I can tell you it’s all trade-offs between improved functionality and user input. The more personalized any product becomes, the more it requires its user to interact with it – and the more complicated it becomes. So let’s stop bitching about both sides of the equation – you can’t have truly social-oriented products without loosening your expectation of privacy. After all, aren’t people on Facebook specifically for that reason? You really think my mom cares if she gets an ultra-targeted ad as long as she can see pictures of her granddaughter? The bottom line is Facebook (in all its glory and stumbling) is defining how the next generation of social-driven companies will deal with these issues.

The other reason I laugh at the hype is because there are 15-20 other social services that represent a much bigger risk in my life – and as a parent, to my daughter. Location-based services like Foursquare could just about be made for a stalker, right? And I know the home address of many of the people I follow on Twitter because they thought it’d be cool to turn on that ‘location-based’ thingy. If I was into identity theft, that’s a pretty easy way to get a billing address, huh? So let’s be real about who sees the fact that I ‘Liked’ a TechDrawl story somewhere in the digital ether. There are much bigger risks, and isn’t all the news just about the ever-popular tactic of trying to knockdown Number 1? Build ‘em up and tear ‘em down – the great American pastime. Just ask Microsoft.

And finally, I say all this for one specific reason: I don’t want Facebook to change in the least. The damnable misery is that all those people from high school found me. The good news is they’re all on a self-contained island called Facebook where I can completely ignore them. Please don’t convince them buy iPhones and setup Foursquare and Twitter. I need my peace…


0 # Penny 2010-06-10 17:38
I wouldn't use my Debit Card Number as my Facebook username, ha.

But I think you're right that more people are concerned about other services privacy than Facebook. People go on Facebook to share information about themselves. I think that services that disclose your information like on 4Square or even something that discloses your phone-number like are probably bigger privacy threats to people than anything Facebook can manage to do.

I think in the long-run privacy will be destined to die as more and more websites enable the sharing of others' personal information. And I think the current generations will understand this better than the previous generations. I think politicians are especially out of touch and might do something to regulate the internet and I think that's problematic for businesses and people if it ends up stymying creating businesses and sharing content.
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0 # GFRRTDEFF 2010-06-10 18:44
Penny: I'd agree 120% that political interference would be a disaster. The under 30 set knows the implications and they manage their preferences accordingly. Provided there's not a monstrous gaffe by Facebook or some other large entity, I think privacy will morph along with the rest of the social moires. Hell, no one even remembers the ChoicePoint debacle. As long as I don't get arrested for a PreCrime all Minority Report style, I think I'm good with privacy finding its own natural point of importance.
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0 # Mike Schinkel 2010-06-11 23:47
"In fact, didn’t those 26 psycho teabaggers make a bigger dent on public policy?"

ROFLMAO! Boy, you sure got cojones for leading off an article like that here in the deep, conservative south... ;-)
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