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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Facebook just keeps flying in the face of privacy

In yesterday’s post, we talked about how the Millennials, age 35 to 44, are willing to share almost any of their personal data online, while the 18 to 29 year-olds are becoming more concerned about their private information, and taking action to protect it.

The 18-24 year-olds alone represent 40.8 percent of Facebook’s customers, according to a Strategy Labs 2009 report. Those 25 to 34 are another 26.7, so assuming about half of them are in the 18 to 29 age group, the total must be at least over 50 percent.

The next age breakdown by Strategy Labs is 35 to 54, representing 16.6 percent of Facebook’s customers. If we simply break that in half to sort out the 35 to 44 Millennials, we are only talking about 8 percent of Facebook’s customer base.

So the group with the most concerns over their privacy represent over 50 percent of Facebook customers. The ones who are loose with their personal data amount to only around 8 percent. And that is what this article is all about…how Facebook can continue to alienate over 50 percent of their customers with their privacy practices.

Mark Zuckerberg, the kid-whiz who dreamed up the now king of social networking, seems to think he can play with his toy any way he wants to, and the customers and regulators be damned. In a recent June D8 Conference (All Things Digital), he took criticisms re. his company’s handling of privacy, and admitted mistakes.

In a Wall Street Journal interview with Zuckerberg during the conference, Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher had to settle for canned responses. One example: Swisher says Zuckerberg’s ramblings made her feel “like I was watching the young CEO collapse under intense questioning on Meet the Press.”

Wired thinks Facebook has gone rogue, reneging on its privacy promises last December. At that time, it made much of your profile information public, and if you don’t like it, you have no control over who sees it. But Facebook does retain all the data and sells it to advertisers. Included are your music and reading preferences, employment information, etc. Then they dispatched your info off to Yelp, Pandora and Microsoft so they could personalize ads to you.

Fourteen privacy groups filed unfair-trade complaints against Facebook on May 5. Wired said Zuckerberg claims he is only “responding to changes in privacy mores,” which translated means that consumers controlling their own personal data is “just plain old-fashioned.”

Ryan Singel, of Wired, thinks it is time to let people control their private information. I agree and have for six years now while writing about the issue in this blog.

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