Adrian Short has posted an interesting and extensive post about the viral spread of Facebook and how it is invading personal privacy to an unacceptable level.
Amongst many points, he highlights how the Facebook Like widget not only tracks webpages you personally “like” but also unknowingly monitors all your website traffic regardless of you opting in to that approval, wherever the Facebook script is placed. This is only going to get worse with the recent Open Graph announcement at F8.
However, Google have been doing this as well, not only with their high profile Search and new Google+ service but also with Google Analytics. Why else would they offer such a valuable, free service to all those websites across the Web?
Yes, there are an alarming number of websites using the Facebook scripts to “engage” with their visitors (I’m as guilty as the next person for implementing the tools) but how many websites use Google Analytics as well? I’ll take a sweeping stab in the dark and guess a vast majority of web developers implement it on their websites, for both personal projects and clients.
It’s easy to slam Facebook for their ethics and how their using all this data (obviously for targeted advertising and marketing) but, if you really do want to play the moral card, remove all your own website tracking tools as well and see how easy it is to optimise your website based on no statistical evidence of visitor behaviour.
What about Facebook?
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of Facebook and whether it holds any personal value to them.
Personally, I find it a great platform for promoting my podcast, interacting with fans of the show as well as promoting new websites or services I’ve been working on. That said, I am aware Facebook is mining all that data to promote targeted ads whilst I visit their website (which I, as an online addict, have learned to ignore quite easily).
I also find Facebook a great tool for keeping in touch with friends and family. Without it, it’s very unlikely I’ll know when birthdays are or when babies have been born. This sort of information is invaluable to me.
What I’m trying to get across here is not to jump on a bandwagon without making a personal, informed decision. Whilst some people “just don’t get” Facebook, others find it a valuable asset in their tools of online activity.
Personally, I’ll now be a lot more cautious of where and when I use Facebook but that doesn’t mean I’ll be deleting my account any time soon.