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Facebook Privacy Policy: Beware Changes In The Fine Print

Posted on March 30, 2010. Filed under: Facebook | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

You’ve heard it’s important to read the fine print of a contract, right?

That’s where there’s a bunch of exceptions and other terms required in the interest of full disclosure, but you likely wouldn’t sign the contract if you read and understood them in full, hence the small print treatment.

It’s only when you have a problem you find out, whoops, there’s something in the fine print about that; and odds are, what it says is not in your favor.

More fine print to Facebook’s privacy policy

Recent revisions to the Facebook privacy policy, announced March 26, 2010, on the Facebook blog in the article Another Step In Open Site Governance, are of similar ilk.

The post’s title implies they’re being transparent. However, if the revised policy is written so that it’s difficult for users to determine the true implications, then it’s the digital equivalent of fine print.

A CYA tactic

The post begins by saying Facebook wants to publicize “all proposed changes to our governing documents before they go into effect and solicit feedback on these proposals from the people who use Facebook.”

FYI, they’re not doing this just to be nice. It’s to avoid another fiasco as happened with the site’s now-deceased Beacon system, which inspired angry member backlash, bad publicity and a lawsuit. In other words, it’s to protect their derrières.

The new policy is to share general data with “select” third parties

There are numerous proposed changes to the Facebook privacy policy, however, one that sticks out as, an “Uh oh, better take note of this” pertains to applications and third-party websites. It would appear Facebook, in language that is not exactly simple and/or direct, wants to share members’ general information — you and your friend’s names, connections, pictures, gender and any content where a privacy setting for sharing is “everyone” — with other websites.

Facebook says the change is being made “to offer a more personalized experience at the moment you visit the site.”

So no worries, it’s for your own good.

The changes are automatic opt-in. Should you prefer to keep general info private, you must make the effort to opt-out.

Member discontent over policy change

Based on comments to the blog post, it looks like this new policy is going over like a lead balloon.

That’s not surprising and is another reason the site is telling everyone what’s going to happen. It’s a common tactic: Let people vent so they can feel like they’re heard, and make the change anyway.

If the true beneficiaries of this revised policy are Facebook and its advertisers — well, that’s just how it goes. Facebook is free. If we don’t like it we can just leave, right?

Are the words privacy and web mutually exclusive?

Perhaps this is just another turn along the inevitable path leading to the point where the words privacy and web are mutually exclusive.

Maybe so, but we’re not quite there yet.

And even if it doesn’t ultimately change the outcome, should you care to voice an opinion on the matter to Facebook, feel free to add to the 2,000+ comments already left on the blog post announcing these impending changes.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think? Are Facebook’s latest privacy changes really the equivalent of fine print? Comments welcome.

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Recommended Reading: The Facebook Era

Posted on February 9, 2010. Filed under: Books, Facebook, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

It’s so easy to set up an account on Facebook or Twitter pretty much anyone can do it.

Knowing how to effectively use those sites for business purposes?  That’s more complicated.

Different social networking sites present different opportunities — and challenges.

You can try and figure it out through trial and error. Or, if you prefer to minimize mistakes, read The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, Reach New Audiences, and Sell More Stuff, by Clara Shih.

A cut above the rest & especially for business

Of course there’s an abundance of books about social media marketing. Why pick this one?

Well, few go at it so sharply from a corporate perspective, and fewer still are written by someone who has as much first-hand experience as Shih, who created a successful Facebook business application (Faceconnector). Her highly informative book goes deep with details, to include case studies and a plentitude of screen shots that help make things crystal clear.

It’s about more than Facebook

FYI, the book’s title tells but part of the tale. Sure, it’s full of tips on how to leverage Facebook — still, Shih delves into other social networks, too, as well as associated tools and applications. In fact, it’s an eye-opener in this regard.

Shih covers corporate-centric tools like Hoover’s Connect, which helps sales reps understand complex organizational structures, and Yammer, for intra-enterprise microblogging. Much attention is paid to salesforce.com offerings — Shih was working for the company when she wrote the book. If The Facebook Era sometimes feels like an ad for that company, well, so it goes.

The how and why of social networks

The book details how the online social graph — the world wide web of interconnected people — fundamentally changes ways we relate, both personally and professionally. It examines the intricacies of how and why social media works the way it does, including sociological factors that come into play. “We are moving from technology-centric applications to people-centric applications that conform to our relationships and identities,” Shih declares. ” It is the death of the anonymous Web.”

Building better business processes

Shih then breaks down how online networks can be a boon to the sales process. For instance, a sales rep can use LinkedIn to search out qualified leads and mine all kinds of information available on that site in order to prepare sale calls that are personal and relevant to individual prospects.

Other sections cover how to leverage social media for recruiting and product innovation, and again, Shih clues you into handy enterprise tools, like Connectbeam, a collaborative platform for building employee expertise profiles.

Step-by-step Facebook guide

When considering how online networks change the ways we receive information about brands, Shih writes, “The new mantra is don’t advertise to people, advertise between people.”

That’s the heart of the matter when it comes to social marketing. Here’s where Facebook takes center stage. Shih shines a bright spotlight on the site, via a step-by-step guide that digs into strategies, best practices, methods of interaction, hypertargeting and more.

Facebook applications get a fair amount of attention. “Apps are the new ads,” Shih writes. “The idea is people tend to spend more time on apps — such as playing games, looking through slideshows and taking surveys –than traditional advertising, so apps might provide more memorable and lasting interactions with your brand.”

Shih adds that creating your own app from scratch is risky business. You may be better off with sponsorship opportunities offered by existing apps that are popular with your target audiences. To help determine what these might be Shih conveniently lists Lookery — which provides a directory of ad network publishers, including Facebook apps, with analytics, demographics and other useful data.

This is mighty meaty material. Shih covers a tremendous amount of ground detailing how to power-up your business’ social media presence with a clear plan of action.

Now, if you want additional info, visit The Facebook Era’s Facebook page.

– Deni Kasrel

What are your thoughts on The Facebook Era? Have you read the book, too? If so, what’s your take on it? Comments welcome.

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