Michael Arrington, the TechCrunch founder and and technology muckraker extraordinaire, has just put Facebook over the coals for some anti-Google PR, and he’s acting as if he’s surprised to see such aggressive and underhanded behavior from Facebook.
Michael’s naive. He doesn’t understand how threatening Facebook really is. Facebook’s behavior threatens everyone, including you.
Although Facebook seems innocent, “an easy place to communicate with friends,” its ownership of our time and our social lives is the result of an aggressive plan to dominate the online world. Facebook doesn’t just want to know everything about you, your friends, and your family; they want to use that in every way possible to dominate the internet and make money. While that’s fine and good for companies in an open market-driven economy, the extent to which they’re trying to do this surreptitiously while looking innocent is quite new.
It’s shocking that even skeptical insiders like Michael Arrington remain in love with the company and eager to buy into its “nice guy” messages:
“I’ve been patient with Facebook over the years as they’ve had their privacy stumbles. They’re forging new ground, and it’s not an exaggeration to say they’re changing the world’s notions on what privacy is. Give them time. They’ll figure it out eventually.”
Seriously? Facebook isn’t trying to figure out privacy. They’re trying to figure out how to murder it and dispose of the body before people catch on that current and potential employers, creditors, and lawyers will pay big bucks to know all the details of what was once part of your private life.
So is Arrington right that Facebook is essentially looking out for you, or is the truth more like what Julian Assange said recently:
“Facebook is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented.”
Facebook’s insistence that users provide their and their friends’ real personal information (and can kick them off if they don’t) shows what lies on the road ahead. Analysis of what’s going on on the top five million websites today makes Facebook’s drive to first dominate, then open up and control not only your social graph but your entire online life, very clear: they want to know everywhere you go, as Danny Sullivan points out in his estimate of Facebook integrations crossing the 2,000,000 site mark. It’s very 1984.
What can you do about Facebook watching you everywhere you go, insisting on knowing your personal information and your real-life friends, and making them complicit in their game? Take a look at what you’ve put out there, and start using some privacy enhancing tools even when you’re not on Facebook. Treat everything you post online as though there’s a chance it will end up on the cover of the New York Times. Ask yourself if you’d be comfortable with the world seeing it. If not, stop; if so, post away.