Facebook's Slippery Slope

As a follow up to my post from the other day, I wanted to make one thing clear: Facebook is on a very slippery slope.

Right now, people are questioning whether the benefits of Facebook (finding old friends, extending relationships, casual communication, entertainment, social recommendations, and the spread of ideas through a viral network) outweigh some of the privacy settings.

You might recall that Facebook began as an entirely closed network. Unless you had a .EDU email address, you couldn’t get an account. The default settings all leaned in the direction of private. Contrast that to today where the defaults for a new user are completely public.

If you are one of the over 400 million active users of Facebook, be responsible and define your own use. Devote the time to understand the controls that you have that customize and personalize your experience. It requires that you take ownership and be accountable.

Most people won’t do this. That is the problem that Facebook should be addressing. Facebook should engineer its interface to encourage users to understand the power of its privacy controls. It might not make short-term business sense, but it might just save them from a mass exodus.

Think back to the dominance of America Online fifteen years ago and MySpace four years ago.

Warning, tech-geek moment: If I were trying to think of a business start-up idea, I’d be creating something that lets people and businesses own and manage their identity with a standard protocol that can run on your own basic web server. The idea is that we (individuals, organizations and companies) can own and control our identity information, rather than trust for-profit companies with our data and ideas.