Are You Paying Attention to Facebook?

Way back in 2004 I wrote about how a scrappy young Google was replacing an increasingly stodgy Microsoft as the predominant tech company. A year later I wrote about how Google hoped to benefit from knowing what you're paying attention to.

These days Google is turning into the stodgy company and Facebook is the scrappy upstart. And now Facebook is the one hoping to benefit from what you're paying attention to.

Frictionless sharing is Facebook's latest attempt to find out what you're paying attention to. They want to know what sites you're visiting, what songs you're listening to, and pretty much everything else about you, so they can surface more relevant content in your newsfeed and show you more relevant ads. They also want to build a more thorough profile of you in order to enable up-and-coming features like timeline, and to open up more possibilities for those who develop apps on their platform.

But if Facebook wants to collect this information, they need to do it in a way that doesn't lead customers to believe their privacy is being violated. And based on the reaction to frictionless sharing, it appears they've failed to do that. They're gathering – and exposing – all this attention data in way that scares an awful lot of people and will surely invite increased government investigation. That could backfire on them in a big way (remember how diminished Microsoft was following their wrangling with the DOJ?).

All of this makes me more confident of our decision to make privacy the focus in Glassboard. When we created Glassboard, we anticipated an eventual backlash against popular social networking services that violate your privacy. And based on the news we read every day, it seems like that backlash may come even sooner than expected.

2 thoughts on “Are You Paying Attention to Facebook?

  1. Just be careful — it is all too easy to get a confirmation bias with these things. If you only look for signs of a backlash in the news, you may very well get a mistaken impression that there is one.

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