Facebook has cut to the chase in a draft version of its new document defining the rights of customers – by taking out the word "privacy."
Instead the draft, posted March 15 for customers to comment on, is a "data use policy."
Facebook even denigrates that change, referring to it as "administrative" as opposed to other sections the document that ban customers from trying to extract source code from Facebook software, refine the definition and rules forbidding hate speech.
It also makes "clear" the already too-liberal policy under which deciding to use an app – or even to launch it to see if you want to use it – gives the app permission to access your "content and information" which presumably means all the data attached to your account.
The clarification adds nine words – "…or others who can see your content and information…" – that give any app you use permission to access the accounts of anyone you've allowed to see any of your information.
That makes it suck to be your Friend because your bad app decisions now affect a lot of other people.
It also gives the oversharers and cute-app-addicts on your Friends list the power to give any app, however invasive, stupid or objectionable you find it, permission to access your data for purposes Facebook promises it will control on your behalf.
Thanks. That's very considerate. It's so inconvenient to decide for myself what apps, what companies or what manipulative strangers should get automatic access even to pictures or comments I had made accessible only to a few specific people.
No wonder Facebook took "privacy" out of the policy.
No wonder "I do not approve" and variations thereof (many in German) are the most common comments posted.
"I just found out about this today" one user commented earlier today, having missed opportunity to comment, largely because Facebook did little to publicize the changes or open-comment period. "It's too late for my comment to count, but I'm making it anyway. I disagree with my friend's applications being able to access my information."
"Your friends' apps have ALWAYS been able to access your data!" another countered. "It isn't a complete policy change, they just changed the words to make it clear."
That is true and does mean the policy change is that Facebook is admitting it gives apps almost free rein with data from its users. That's slightly more honest than letting them do it on the DL, but not anything close to what would normally qualify as an honest admission of intent or even the realization that customers are more than faceless contributors lobbing free content into a giant bucket Facebook can use any way it chooses.
The difference between the way Facebook and other social networks operateand the way users would like them to operate is that social networks tend to view the content users post as raw material to be manipulated or exploited according to the network's own business plans.
Users, on the other hand, see Facebook as a public place in which they can meet or exchange messages with their friends – a park where they can meet to chat, not an employer that owns anything they transmit across the corporate network because it's paying them to be there.
An employer can justify a policy saying a whole workgroup has to be enrolled in a SAAS app or corporate-morale program when one person volunteers to participate (though only when that one person is the supervisor).
Managers of a park, even a private park, can only enforce actual laws and reasonable restrictions designed to ensure the whole facility doesn't become unusable due to the litter, hate speech, barrel fires or space hogging of a few insensitive visitors.
Park managers can't force visitors to sit through pitches for time-share condos or irresistible investment opportunities or how to make sure their souls are ready to meet a god whose published writings make it seem as if He doesn't like them very much.
None of which matters. The comment period for Facebook's privacy-free data-use policies closed yesterday.
Facebook thanks you for your participation. "We plan to review and analyze your comments over the coming days and will keep you posted on next steps," according to its smug-sounding notice, which doesn't promise any of the comments would have any impact, didn't promise the "next steps" would involve the participation or consent of users, or even admit that "next steps" are Facebook's next steps, not those of Facebook management in conjunction with the community that makes it what it is.
Time to tell Facebook goodbye – publicly since you have no other choice.
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.