Monday, September 26, 2011

UPDATE - Is this the Facebook, er, World we want?

Earlier this afternoon, I posted my concerns about the Facebook privacy changes.  They are really confusing, and if we happen to be friended on Facebook, you can read my pal Dan Notov's running commentary as he tries to figure out how to make a completely clean public Fb wall.

Because that's what the wall used to be - completely blank unless you specifically set it to let others see it.  

That's what we suppose it still is unless we go to some special profile edit page and use a button that lets us see what the Public sees when they look at our wall.  I'll ask Dan to come back to the blog and put his findings up when he's figured it all out.

So, knowing this is all in Dan's good hands - he's a computer geek - I decided to do something else.  I have a bunch of open windows - Google Chrome Browser, by the way - and I thought I'd see what I'd parked till after I finished today's grading, and then close them down.

Well, the first thing I noticed is that the ads on every single page were very predictable.  They all, without exception, had the two shoe ads you can see on this blog.  If you know me well, you know I love to be outdoors.  Because of the heat, I prefer sport sandals over any closed shoe, even though, as my friends like to point out to me, I'm more likely to take a pebble than if my foot is closed into a lace-up shoe with socks.  I also narrow down the selection by looking for shoes that have a toe guard, which basically means the sole wraps up in front and creates a bumper for my toes.

As you can see, someone, aka Google, has been taking stock of my preferences, and putting pics of the two pairs of shoes I spent the most time looking at right in front of my face.

No, I did't buy them...yet.  But these photos sure are tempting me.

What's all this have to do with Facebook?  Well, nothing yet.  But I'm wondering just how much more privacy Google+ really provides.  It is a Google network, and John likes it because it is tied into other Google applications.  If Google Chrome tracks me like this, what's to say Google+ doesn't follow me around the web too?  I'll have to see if John will explain all this.

If you have any info, please jump in...

Is this the Facebook we want?

John, one of my good friends, has become paranoid enough about privacy issues on Facebook that he's removing himself (mostly) and transferring his social networking life to Google+.   You know what they say about paranoia.

Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.  

I say "mostly" because John still maintains a silly little private page a few of us have going, and he will be subscribing to his friends without "friending" them.  He sent me a link to a couple of interesting articles written by computer geeks, but clear enough at least for the most part to frighten me too.

The changes on The New Facebook seem to include the ability of Facebook to automatically post every location you're at, every website you visit, etc, without asking you if you'd like to share it.  I don't spend any time on porno sites, but I'd rather not have anyone know how much time I've spent on looking at shoes.

But what really bothers me, if I'm understanding correctly, is that people can now "subscribe" to your wall and see everything on it, whether or not they are friends.  This is completely antithetical to the idea that you can control who sees your wall by specifying only "friends," "friends of friends," etc.  And it appears to be true, because John could subscribe to my wall after he unfriended me.  He could not post, but he could read it.  My settings say "friends of friends," but since he has unfriended all his friends, I shouldn't be showing up for him, even if he's subscribed.  Or so I thought.

The import of this development - that anyone, anyone at all can see everything on my Facebook wall - is troublesome to me.  While I'm trying to decide if  I should wean myself off of Facebook, I thought I'd share the links John sent me.  Parts of them are written in Computer Geek, but if you're not a computer geek, just scroll past that and it becomes English again.

Here's the first one, by Dave Winer, "Facebook is Scaring Me," explains the privacy impacts of the recent Facebook changes.  By the way, when John tried to put the link into a Facebook message, Facebook error messaged me, saying:

Attachment Unavailable
The attachment source was deleted or the privacy settings on this attachment do not allow you to view it.

John, though, is smarter than Facebook, and he got it through!

The second article, "Logging out of Facebook is Not Enough," by Nik Cubrilovic, picks up where Winer left off, explaining the technology and making some suggestions - as I said, scroll past the tech stuff if you're not interested.  There is also a wealth of information in the discussion thread below, including a letter from a Facebook employee explaining some of their practices.  Nik isn't buying much of it, though, and explains why in a follow-up post.

This is fascinating.  I don't think I have much to hide, but then... I'm still job hunting and who knows what information might impact someone's hiring decision.

I'm seriously considering following John's lead and moving to Google+.  The problem there is... it's not intuitive and I think it's going to be difficult figuring out how to use it.  I'm such a wuss.