Facebook is making news again for violating the privacy of it’s users. A year ago, Facebook released an update that made it’s users activity on the site visible to a wide audience via the news feeds it publishes about each user.
This year, Facebook has released another major transgression of it’s users privacy. Their activity on 3rd party sites, including products they’ve purchased, automatically appear on their Facebook profile, and show up in the news feeds of their friends.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg was apologetic about last year’s transgression, and they quickly worked to address people’s concerns. Along the way, it made online privacy an issue for a generation that seemed to be online exhibitionists.
One has to doubt that Zuckerburg learned his lesson though, given how closely this latest transgression mirrors the previous one by taking activities that people used to reasonably consider private, and broadcast details of them to a wide audience.
Or maybe Zuckerburg is a very shrewd advocate of privacy. The millennial generation has a reputation for online exhibitionism and trusting authority a great deal more than their recent predecessors among “Gen X” and the baby boomers. They certainly seem to have a lot of trust for Zuckerburg and his company. When he betrayed their trust the first time, they seemed to take it seriously, and the resulting uproar helped people consider just how much of their life they wanted to make public online.
Now, one year later, with memories of his previous indiscretion fading, he does it again, and man, did he ever do it — some people have accused Zuckerburg of ruining Christmas because surprise gifts they purchased online ended up being revealed to the intended recipients. In doing so he’s taken an abstract concern about the way sites share information about their users via tracking cookies and made it flesh by putting it all out in the open.
So, either Zuckerburg is a lot dumber than people have been giving him credit for, or he’s a powerful, subversive, advocate for privacy.