Facebook has announced some new privacy changes today. Most of the changes are pretty minor, users can now access a menu on each post giving the ability to limit visibility on each post that is made. In addition a new tool is available to control any tags on images posted by others. A new interface to control what apps are able to do with your account is also being rolled out.
These changes however are not the headline news, the bombshell is that Facebook is now removing the ability for you to hide your profile from public search.
What does this mean to you the end user? You may or may not currently use the function to limit your appearance in the search engines. If however you do currently limit how people can find you, i.e. friends of friends then it may alarm you to know that by the end of the year anyone will be able to find you on Facebook, Employers, ex wives or husbands, debt collectors, stalkers, weirdos, and a whole host of other undesirables.
Why are Facebook making these changes? Simple! Facebook have rolled out big changes over the past few months, you may have noticed that you aren’t getting as many updates from the pages that you have liked, instead you may have seen “sponsored stories” from pages that your friends like, these are paid statuses and advertising. You are seeing these “sponsored stories” because Facebook mines your data, and allows advertisers to target you directly. An advertiser can target all manner of demographics based on the data that Facebook hold about you and also based on your past “likes”. You have become a “product” and Facebook are selling you to advertisers. The more people connect the larger the product base becomes, hiding yourself from search and limiting your visibility is not good for business.
All this comes at a time when there is a lot of controversy regarding Facebook and its current love affair with advertising.
Bernard Meisler on readwrite.com recently posted a really interesting article “Why are dead people liking stuff on Facebook?” the article certainly does raise some questions about the integrity of the data used by the website not just for users but also for advertisers and investors. It’s certainly worth a read.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg admitted to saying (about Facebook users freely giving their data) “They trust me – dumb fucks” Admittedly the CEO is now older and more mature, that said, you can read into the statement how you like. Facebook was always about the long term revenue generation and to be fair you can’t blame any business owner for thinking along those lines. What is a hard pill to swallow however is the bait and switch that Facebook has pulled with this latest privacy change.
If you are keen not to be found on Facebook by anyone other than your friends then I’d recommend that you remove any personal information such as your school, place of work and town then replace your photograph with this black square. Unless you have a totally unique name then chances are there are lots of results that show up if someone where to search for you. A black square as your profile photo removes the ability for you to be found by people who you’d rather didn’t find you. If you have a totally unique name then I’d recommend that you change that too.
What will this mean for Facebook? Well it will mean that the people who buy Facebook advertising (that included me and some clients up until today) will have less accurate data to mine when placing adverts.
I’m sure that nobody begrudges Facebook from a few million advertising dollars here and there, It’s the lack of privacy that’s the stinger!
I’d be lying if I said no, Facebook does still have a value albeit considerably reduced. I think what Facebook may have overlooked is that in order to sell advertising to businesses they have to provide a quality product. By eroding the trust of it’s users Facebook is reducing the quality of the product that it sells to paying advertisers.
If you run a Facebook page for your business then it does still have a certain value, the fact that post visibility has been reduced recently does limit its usefulness. Almost overnight Facebook has gone from a highly valued tool to just another string in your bow. By all means have a Facebook presence but don’t think of it as being any more useful than your phonebook entry.
This article was written by Gwiz
SEO Geek, Web Designer and Online Marketing Advisor. Steve works with businesses of all sizes across the UK and blogs about small business, marketing, web design and SEO at http://stevegrady.org