September 20, 2010, 2:29 PM — The great thing about writing about products that don't yet exist is that you can say virtually anything about them and not be proven wrong. So it is with the "Facebook phone," rumors about which have been swirling across the InterWebs this past weekend.
If TechCrunch is to be believed, Facebook is working on a smart phone of its own. Facebook denies this, of course. And you have to admit the idea does not make a whole lot of sense for consumers. A Facebook app is available for every smart phone OS already. What could a Facebook phone possibly add to that?
[ See also: Yes, Mr. Zuckerberg, we do care about privacy ]
On the other hand, a Facebook phone could provide a nice revenue boost for the company, making it a more attractive investment as it veers toward the inevitable IPO. Facebook probably wouldn't mind taking a slice out of your monthly phone bill, with the rest going to whatever telecom(s) it partners with to actually deliver the service. It surely wouldn't mind having a native platform where it can deliver mobile ads and collect all of the revenue, instead of having to share it with Google, iAds, etc.
And it would explain why Facebook jumped with both feet into the geo-location biz with Facebook Places. Why ask users to load your app and manually check into a place when your phone's GPS can do it for you automatically?
But from a privacy point of view, a Facebook phone could be a nightmare waiting to happen. Because if the 'face fone' is real, Facebook would automatically become the most privacy unfriendly player in the smart phone space.
Save for letting the NSA in the back door without a warrant to snoop on Web traffic, the telecoms have been relatively good about consumer privacy. For one thing, they've been leery about commercializing the location data in their hot little hands. Verizon even successfully fought off the RIAA when the record companies tried to squeeze its ISP division into revealing the real names of some of its customers.