has had a rough couple of weeks. We’ve talked here several
times about bouts of mass hysteria that pop up from time to
time regarding the omnipresent social networking site, most
of which have been entirely unsubstantial. This latest thing
is more real than what’s been blown out of proportion in the
past; this is not just another stupid rumor that Facebook
will start charging $3.99 per month on July 15. The company
unilaterally undid a whole bunch of privacy settings, and
users should be paying attention.
What’s happened is that Facebook reneged on its much-ballyhooed
of “Facebook is Evil”), and suddenly a whole bunch of stuff
you posted about yourself that you thought was visible only
to your “friends” is not only visible to everyone on FB, but
has been shuttled off to folks like Microsoft, Yelp and Google,
so now some of your info is out there for everybody
Not that the reaction isn’t a little overblown, as usual.
As we’ve mentioned here before, the privacy train left the
station a long time ago. If you go on the Internet at all,
your privacy isn’t what it used to be. Heck, if you walk the
street of any city, or if you drive on an interstate highway,
or generally get out of bed in the morning—or not—your privacy
isn’t what it used to be. Clearly what FB is trying to do
is monetize the boatloads of information that it has, and
the companies paying for it will use it, directly or indirectly,
to sell you things they think that you’d like to buy. It’s
nothing new, really. Except info you thought would have limited
access now has universal access.
So now there are calls for the population to en masse
quit Facebook and breathy, hyperbolic articles about how awful
Facebook is. In almost every article I’ve read, it’s mentioned
To which I can only reply: “Yeah? And?” Apparently there’s
a movie coming out about the origins of Facebook that paints
founder Mark Zuckerberg as a creep and sex maniac. Yikes.
He does and does and does for you kids and this is the thanks
And the user pushback is pretty fierce, albeit predictable.
I’ve seen calls for someone, anyone, to develop a Facebook
alternative where we can play without being seen, or something,
and I guess there’s a date on which we’re all supposed to
quit Facebook en masse, like a big virtual Jonesville
Yawn. Neither of these things are likely to happen in any
meaningful way. We like Facebook too much, it works too well,
and we’re addicted to it. All of our “friends” are there.
In any event, it’s good to see people finally get a little
agitato about their privacy, for once. While Facebook
reportedly is coming up with a more streamlined way for people
to tweak the user-defined privacy settings and to opt out
of some of the more onerous sharing of their info, there are
a number of tools out there you can use right now to understand
what’s being shared by Facebook and how you can stop it. The
best site I’ve seen in this regard is ReclaimPrivacy.org,
which has a nifty diagnostic tool that tells you what’s going
on with your FB account.
But in general, you (and especially your kids) should heed
the words of my pal, media goddess Penny Perkins, who told
the Times Union last week that she won’t post anything
on the Internet that she wouldn’t mind seeing on a billboard
on 787. It really is that simple.
Moving on! The MPAA, the large trade association representing
the movie studios, appears to have stopped its ridiculous
mass lawsuits against kids who download free movies online,
but some indie studios seem to still be in the game. There
has been a spate of new suits brought recently, apparently
looking for quick-hit money from folks who’ve downloaded indie
films including The Hurt Locker, Steam Experiment,
Far Cry, Uncross the Stars, Gray Man,
and Call of the Wild 3D through bit torrent and P2P
sites. I’ve been contacted by a local guy who received a letter
from his Internet company informing him that the company has
been subpoenaed to reveal his identity to the moviemakers’
attorneys in a just-commenced lawsuit with more than 2,000
“John Doe” defendants. Which means he’s behind the 8 ball.
I’m reading reports that suits have been started against as
many as 50,000 defendants, which is insane, but it’s too early
to tell how much money will be demanded, or how flexible the
attorneys will be, or how nasty they’ll get when somebody
pushes back. Or why they think this totally boneheaded strategy
is going to work out any better for indie studios than it
did for the big boys. We’ll see!