Sharing Without Caring? Facebook’s Open Graph/Timeline

We’ve all seen the Ticker and the News Feed updates, and we either love them or hate them. I find it particularly amusing when people get so fed up with Facebook’s incremental changes they whine and moan about something they can simply opt out of. It’s like complaining about how bad smoking is for you when you continue to smoke a pack a day. That analogy works well, unfortunately; it could be argued social networking is just as addictive. Probably now more than ever.

Because where are you gonna go? Google+, huh? The only friends I have on Google+ are the early adopters, the techies who were going to join anyway, no matter what. The Reddit readers, the iPad buyers, etc. Everybody else? Still on Facebook. And it’s not like those early adopters deleted their Facebook accounts, either.

If anyone should bitch about anything Facebook does, it’s not the layout changes, but their stance on privacy, which started off awful and has only gotten worse. The new Open Graph, in particular, pretty much makes you as a Facebook user vulnerable to every third party that wants any sliver of info about you. And to customize it otherwise is already a hassle, but at least for now it’s optional. Take Spotify, for example. All of us who use the service have seen what we were listening to broadcasted to our friends whether we wanted it to or not. At least currently, there are ways to opt out (the new “private listening” function should have been included initially – seems a bit obvious), but it made a lot of regular joes mad, for the short term anyway.

Those of us who follow tech, who are keen on new apps and features and software, we knew something like the Open Graph and Timeline was on the way. We knew Facebook’s history of wanting to share and share and share. We had an idea of the hidden algorithms; how else can Facebook attract advertisers? Third party apps? Zynga? Spotify? Every person and company in the world? This was a long time coming. But just because you see the train doesn’t mean it’s good when it hits you. And it hurts even worse for the average joe, who wasn’t really aware, or intuitive, about how exactly Facebook operates. Who had never heard that old cliche about free sites – if you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer, you’re the product.

That old adage is now truer than ever. But at least Facebook is being more transparent and gradual with their rollouts and intentions this time around. It seems they may have learned a thing or two from the “Like” button scrutinies.

But users should be more aware of what’s getting out there, because it just might be something you don’t want. We all have an individual responsibility to control our digital spaces and perceptions, and we can’t expect, or trust, Facebook or any Big Web entity to necessarily incorporate acceptable defaults. This has ALWAYS been the case.

Facebook is taking a large leap with the Open Graph – an enhanced marketing tool that aggregates data enrichment and progressively precise analytics.  There are several things Facebook can do to adapt to our privacy concerns, and once they roll out the Open Graph for all, this will become more apparent.  The question is, will they do them?  In the meantime, users can adjust their Web social habits accordingly and still enjoy what I deem as necessary for the 21st century – personal, business, or otherwise: a social media presence.  Abandoning it altogether hurts you in the long run.  Facebook is rock and roll – it’s hear to stay. You can jump ship, but the world turns without you.

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