Facebook and Google

I’ve bitched a lot about Facebook the past year, primarily because I disagree with the way that Facebook assumes that everything you do wants to be public information.

You’re opted by default into Facebook Places, allowing people to broadcast to anyone where you are.
Photos, people can tag you doing stupid things, all without your permission unless your carefull modify your settings.
Facebook started using your name and photo in ads, unless you opted out.
Facebook has been found to be publicly sharing user data with advertisers and other developers.

You post everything on Facebook. You tell it what you like. What you’re doing. Where you’re doing it and who with. This is your life. It is your timeline (I love the design, for the record).  Now, don’t you think you should be able to choose which information you share and with whom (including developers, partners, advertisers,etc.)

Let me explain why this gets me so worked up…

I work at Google. One of my responsibilities is to ensure that all of the advertisers running on our AdSense partner sites (the Google Display Network) are respecting your right to Internet privacy. The team I manage ensures that  our advertisers are not storing any data about you and that they fully declare how they use it by way of the advertiser’s privacy policy. We ensure that advertisers are not stealing your online identity, allowing them to thus target you without your express knowledge and agreement.

We review every ad that is served on our network to ensure that it is not dropping any tracking cookies from shady advertisers, ad networks or other online entities. For the select vendor tracking cookies we allow, we carefully screen them for data collection practices, malware protection and require that they each include a method in their privacy policy to allow you to opt out from being tracked.

Google collects behavioral data about which sites you visit, to put them into categories for advertisers to target. We tell you this information up front and allow you to delete or change what we know about you. Hmmm.. Google thinks I’m 35-44 years old. I’m kind of offended.

We tell you exactly what we know about you and how we use it.

Now let’s talk about Facebook. You tell Facebook everything. Facebook is your online identity. If an someone could take a snapshot of your life (your books, conversations, interests) and put it in one massive database, it’d be Facebook. All this information is then shared with advertisers, research companies its partners.  For example, the marketing research company Nielsen has a new product known as OCR, which will report back to advertisers which ads you’ve seen, on which pages of the internet, how you responded to the ad and compare that with your Facebook profile. You can’t choose what information is shared with Nielsen and what’s not. But that’s ok, right?

They’ve now allowing applications and partners to post directly to your stream and share everything you do, with or without your permission. I’m not sure how you feel about that, but I’d rather not tell everyone what movies I’m watching, reading, or listening to without me saying so. Do I want people to know that I a closet Real Housewives fan (I’m not)? Or that I’ve been listening to an unhealthy amount of Vitamin String Orchestra? I’d rather choose tell that to people, not assume that what I do in my private life is up for public consumption.

Spotify! I love it. Greatest app ever. I am a paying user for $9.99 a month. I get an email from them last week, with the subject line “Ron Bailer is listening to ____.” I open it up and it’s a promotional email from Spotify, who has a list of all my friends and is allowing the use of their names in promotional emails. I don’t want my name showing up in anyone else’s promotional email. Even if I love a product, I don’t want them to assume they can use my name in their advertisements. What is Ron hates Spotify?  I asked Spotify about this, and they told me:

The email you are referring too comes from Spotify Social and occurs when you link your Spotify account to Facebook. It will send out these emails occasionally to other users within your social network, so it is possible that from time to time your Facebook friends who have also linked their accounts to Spotify will receive similar emails with your information in.

There is no “opt in” or “opt out” option for this as it is part of the social experience. If you do not wish for information to be shared in this way you will need to disconnect your Facebook account from Spotify.

I like using Spotify and I want to share my playlists with other people. Why must I give up my right to privacy in order to get the convenience of sharing a song or a playlist with someone else. I know what you’re going to say.. this is Spotify’s problem (not Facebook’s). I disagree.

Google would never allow a partner or advertiser to do this to you, without your permission (or at least a way to opt out).

Advertisers on Facebook can target any demographic or profile term they want and hit you with a display ad. These ads can then drop cookies (and flash cookies) on you that can tag you as having specific qualities. You can’t opt out of it. You don’t even know it’s happening or when. The Facebook Privacy policy doesn’t offer any opt-outs for these sorts of things.

The information you share online is information about you. Think about it this way. If you have a secret or a personal story that you want to tell someone in real life. Who would you rather trust? The person that will keep your secret and allow you to say with whom they can and cannot share it? Or someone who thinks that “the age of privacy is over” and is willing to tell it to anyone that’s willing to listen?