I guess the funny thing is, the more I hear everyone complaining about all of Facebook’s privacy blunders, the biggest threat that always gets thrown around is, “Well I’ll just stop using it – Facebook’s not all that great…” and maybe I don’t know exactly how they’re using it, but from my own perspective, believe it or not I’d actually disagree.

The reason for this is that sure, I’ve had an online presence for a long time. I’ve written a blog since 2003, I’ve ran websites featuring my writing since 1999, and even maintained groups on telnet systems before that. Add Twitter on top of everything and there’s certainly no shortage of me online, but here’s the thing – not everyone is like me. In fact, the vast majority of my friends and family aren’t, but Facebook changed all of that. Most of my friends would never actually maintain a blog or even get into something like Twitter, but for some reason they’ll put random status updates up on Facebook when something interesting happens in their lives. And the same with photos – before Facebook (and admittedly MySpace), you pretty much had to sign up for a separate service like Flickr to post photos online, but now you can include those on your Facebook page, too.

So hands down, I think one of the huge benefits to Facebook is that they’ve created a conduit to create online presences for people who otherwise normally wouldn’t have one … which unfortunately is also somewhat of a burden because as these people are new to the concept of putting their lives online, unfortunately they’re kind of stupid as far as knowing what they should and shouldn’t be concerned about posting. Also a factor is the concern about what you consider private – I distinctly remember a scene a few years back when some of my family was shocked that you could type my Grandparents’ address into Google Maps and see their house pinpointed on a map, even though technically anyone with a phonebook and a road atlas could’ve done the same thing decades ago. It’s a perception of what could happen – are you concerned that someone knows what town you live in, or that they know what flavor of ice cream you ate last night because you threw up a post that said, “Mmmmmm – I love me some Chunky Monkey!”

I guess ultimately it’s a matter of educating this new crowd, and the trouble is, I’m not sure if that’s Facebook’s responsibility or someone else’s. I saw one rant the other day about how Facebook is deceiving when you join because of the lack of information on its homepage before you sign-up, which I think is a bunch of bullshit because the users still need to have some responsibility when they sign up. You don’t just randomly jump around to various sites, giving them your name and e-mail address because they asked for it … or your phone number, or home address, for that matter. You wouldn’t hand those out to just some random guy on the street, so why put them on your Facebook profile where you have a perceived level of privacy for the free service that you’re receiving??? Or do we just scold Facebook for soliciting that kind of data in the first place? The real trouble is, I have a feeling that people are getting bent out of shape about a lot more than just addresses and phone numbers, which tells me that ultimately they just want a private service … maybe someday Facebook will offer a private version that comes with a monthly subscription fee.

Oh wait – people have already protested paying $3.99/month for Facebook, despite those being nothing more than rumors!

I don’t know what else to say except don’t post it online unless you either don’t care about it being public or you’re paying somebody specifically to keep it private. Good grief, this became a much longer rant than I ever would’ve anticipated…

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