How Facebook's Dreadfully Executed Smear Campaign Against Google Has Increased Scrutiny Of Facebook's Own Privacy Issues

from the backfiring-in-a-big-way dept

It appears that Facebook's really weak (and childish) attempt to hire big-time PR firm Burson-Marsteller to run a smear campaign against Google is backfiring in even bigger ways. Beyond just making the company look bad and petty, the whole campaign turns out to have done the exact opposite of its intention. That is, the point of the smear campaign was to call into question Google's treatment of user privacy in its Social Circle feature, allegedly because Facebook was sick of being the focus of everyone's privacy concerns.

Well, consider that plan a huge failure. While most people analyzing Google's privacy setup with Social Circle say that Facebook's concerns are significantly overstated, the whole fiasco has actually resulted in more people questioning Facebook's methods of handling privacy, and they don't look all that good. In fact, Steven Levy points out that the attack on Google is so misguided, because even if Social Circle ended up being a privacy violation, the real problem would have come from Facebook, rather than Google:
But here's what makes the least sense -- if there were privacy problems about Facebook information in Google Social Circle (which has now been transformed into a different product called Social Search), they may well have been a result of Facebookís own practices.

Facebook was griping that Google is getting information about its users without permission. But some information that users share with Facebook is available publicly, even to people who arenít their friends in in their social networks Ė or even are members of Facebook. Itís not because outsiders raided the service and exposed that information. Itís because Facebook chose to expose it.
It appears this strategy is backfiring on multiple levels...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    A Dan (profile), May 16th, 2011 @ 7:15am

    Shared name

    I nearly share one of those hyphenated names.

    I hereby disavow any connection to PR firm Burson-Marsteller. May the record show that I deplore dishonest public relations and dishonest marketing. Digging dirt for hire is not the job of any honorable company.

    I hope they go out of business or, at least, change their name to escape the bad PR. That would be ironic.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2011 @ 7:20am

    It's not a bug; it's a feature

    The privacy issues with Facebook are not the result of mistakes in policy or implementation by Facebook; they're the expressions of a primary design goal.

    Facebook (and any number of similar operations) are designed as data harvesters, using various enticements (e.g., social interaction, games, etc.) to bait people into surrendering that data. Those people are NOT the users of Facebook et.al.; they're merely the product. The real users are those who are purchasing the data from Facebook (or in the case of certain governments, coercing its release).

    So it's not surprising that one steps back and looks at the architecture of Facebook, as well as its operational procedures, that one finds it's optimized for THOSE users -- not for the hundreds of millions of naive fools who have fallen for the scam.

    And therefore it's profoundly silly to even *talk* about "Facebook" and "privacy" in the same sentence. Any noises coming out of Facebook on that topic are self-serving PR lies, a feeble attempt to pretend that Facebook's reason for existence isn't profit-through-privacy-destruction.

     

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  3.  
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    Nick Coghlan (profile), May 16th, 2011 @ 7:38am

    Re: It's not a bug; it's a feature

    Hey, no need to be insulting. Don't assume that every FB user doesn't know the real score. Even though we aren't the ones paying them money, they still offer *real* value in return for the data we give them.

    While *I* can technically use the net in other ways to achieve the same things FB does, FB nicely ties together several disparate features into a somewhat cohesive interface that not only I, but also many less technically inclined folks I like to stay in touch with, can handle easily.

    That said, FB's proven disregard for user privacy (as evidenced by their repeated "share-by-default" approach to new settings) is indeed their main failing that creates an opening for the next social networking tool.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2011 @ 7:46am

    Re: Re: It's not a bug; it's a feature

    The problem is, people shouldn't just settle for a "nice" application that has complete disregard for user privacy.

    People should demand better.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Trails (profile), May 16th, 2011 @ 7:57am

    Re: Re: Re: It's not a bug; it's a feature

    Add demands and $2 and you'll have $2.

    Users are presented with a choice: use Facebook or don't.

    Many users do. Some of those users are informed, Facebook's PR idiocy notwithstanding.

    If there is a business model for something else, a competitor will arise that doesn't have so many problems. People can demand stuff all they want, but there needs to be a business model behind it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2011 @ 9:23am

    Re: It's not a bug; it's a feature

    This x 100

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Suzanne Lainson (profile), May 16th, 2011 @ 9:59am

    I don't trust Facebook

    I use it, but I am careful not to supply information if I am not sure how it will be used.

    Here's the most recent action Facebook did without my permission. There was a pop up from Facebook suggesting that I make my Facebook page more secure. This wasn't about setting my page to https, which I have already done.

    It was taking me through steps to supply more contact information. I suppose the "reason" was to give Facebook more ways to accurately identify me in case someone tries to hijack my account. One of the questions was to ask for my cellphone number. Google has done this as a way to log in if you have forgotten your password, so I thought it was a reasonable request and I gave it to Facebook.

    About a week later I happened to look at my profile and my contact info. My cellphone number was there. I have never entered my cellphone number on my contact info page on Facebook. I can only assume Facebook thought it was doing me a "favor" by providing my number to my friends. I took it down, but Facebook crossed the line, making me that much more wary of the company.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2011 @ 11:15am

    Re: Re: It's not a bug; it's a feature

    "proven disregard for privacy"?

    No, you still don't get it. Let me try again.

    Facebook doesn't disregard privacy, per se: they know all about it. All of these little "incidents" or "lapses" are nothing of the sort: they're attempts to fulfill their primary corporate mission, which is to convince as many marks as they can to willingly cough up useful data. (Where "useful" is "almost anything"; even innocuous data, when accumulated in sufficient quantities and correlated with other innocuous data, can yield actionable intelligence.) Facebook's top corporate goal is anti-privacy; we can observe that by looking at their design.

    You're still looking at it as a service -- to you. It's nothing of the kind, of course. You are the PRODUCT, and your data/your attention are for sale to anybody with cash in hand. That's the business model they've set up, and their every action to date has been ruthlessly consistent with it. Never mind that what they *say*: talk is cheap, and everyone with any sense knows that spokespeople are paid to lie convincingly. It's what they *do* -- and that is to continuously devise more ways to extract more data from the suckers who give it to them.

    To borrow from Matt Taibbi, Facebook is a data vampire wrapped around the face of the Internet, with its tentacles probing for anything that might be useful.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Steve, May 16th, 2011 @ 11:20am

    Facebook

    I never touch " social sites" as mostly losers making " friends" and harvested info for $ and targeting by business and government oversight. Google and FB taking credit for starting the "Arab Spring " says it all!

    No I don't go for Obama's secret meetings with Uber tech titans based on Egypt / Tunisia and primary tool of CIA and others! Wake up and REDUCE any political and sex/ behavior content or be faced by government actions and propaganda.

    I know Where Uncle Sam will start when looking for much more than a feow good men/ women to fight WWIII already underway with the Arab Spring being all about Sharia Law and the genocide of Jews and non Muslims world wide. Go watch the web documentary IRANIUM for 30+ years of both "parties " American Appeasement ever since Sharia law in Iran and all that should be indicted by the idiot ICC in the Hague. FB, dating and especially your most private info from

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Steve, May 16th, 2011 @ 11:40am

    Facebook

    I never touch " social sites" as mostly losers making " friends" and harvested info for $ and targeting by business and government oversight. Google and FB taking credit for starting the "Arab Spring " says it all!

    No I don't go for Obama's secret meetings with Uber tech titans based on Egypt / Tunisia and primary tool of CIA and others! Wake up and REDUCE any political and sex/ behavior content or be faced by government actions and propaganda.

    I know Where Uncle Sam will start when looking for much more than a feow good men/ women to fight WWIII already underway with the Arab Spring being all about Sharia Law and the genocide of Jews and non Muslims world wide. Go watch the web documentary IRANIUM for 30+ years of both "parties " American Appeasement ever since Sharia law in Iran and all that should be indicted by the idiot ICC in the Hague. FB, dating and especially your most private info Eharmoney has unlimited shelf life and just got hacked. Anyone should keep a low electronic profile as possible and any questions for more info for " security " is always questionable and with money in other's pockets and users always paying the price! I only do LINKEDIN for professional only and that's bad enough!

    I am a 35 year expert in technology/ web and made the mistake of others I hope to help! I make deliberate name and other minor errors to track the sources of selling my information for many years'. Information is power / money, so stop giving it away by answering polls etc. Post info assuming government oversight, use for Propaganda, IRS etc. Mostly choose your so called "friends"with great care, or be guilty by association with others like Obama is....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Steve, May 16th, 2011 @ 11:47am

    Re: Facebook-sorry for fat fingers

    Sincere apologies for triple posts! Pleas read the full post below!
    / steve

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Steve, May 16th, 2011 @ 11:47am

    Re: Facebook-sorry for fat fingers

    Sincere apologies for triple posts! Pleas read the full post below!
    / steve

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    MAC, May 16th, 2011 @ 12:10pm

    It's all about the money,..

    1. It's all about the money...

    If you have any questions refer to 1.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    lrobbo (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 3:10pm

    Google, the all seeing eye . . .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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