I was listening today to a great episode of This Week in Tech wherein the main topic of discussion was Facebook and how it’s tricked it’s users with it’s new privacy rules. You should read a more detailed version here on Jason Calacanis’s blog, but the short version runs that when they updated the privacy settings what they didn’t tell you is that a lot of your crucial privacy settings were by default set to “everybody” if you had never played with them before. I guess they figure people who have played with them before would notice and make a stink, so instead they’re just praying upon the people who normally don’t think to play with their settings in the first place. Their hope is that most people will just click through the settings without looking at them, and thus leave themselves wide open to search engines and others who might value their information.
To continue to grow they need traffic and people being driven to facebook, and to have that happen a certain percentage of Facebook content needs to be searchable to available. People can google through Twitter posts, and it drives more and more traffic to the ever-growing threat of Twitter, so Facebook wants to do the same thing. To do that they need people to agree to turn off their privacy settings, and the best way to do that was to simply flash a contract that nobody reads in front of them and let them click them away. Presto! Problem solved!
Why would they do this? The answer, my friend, is the simplest one of them all- money. Later this year Facebook will have it’s first IPO (Initial Public Offering), or in layman’s terms they’ll be entering the stock market. At that point Facebook will be required to make a profit, and not just make a profit, but a continually growing profit or else they risk their investors abandoning them. But here’s the problem- while Facebook has finally hit profitability, the question is how long can they do it? And can they make that profitability grow? It took five years to reach the benchmark of profitability, and they’re going to also need to use their assets to continue to make a profit.
The problem is their main asset is our information!
So what do you think they’re going to sell to make a profit? Two guesses, and the first one doesn’t count.
It shouldn’t be a surprise really, after all, they’re already letting anyone who creates a quiz or game literally walk away with not only all of your information, but those of your friends as well. Go take a quiz by the ACLU yourself, and see how vulnerable you really are, it will shock and surprise you.
So what is Facebook’s future? They will push their users when it comes to privacy breaches until their users close their accounts and walk away, and then Facebook will die a slow, lingering death. Another similar site or service will take it’s place, until they too also break faith with their users in trade for cash, and the cycle will continue on and on into the future. The only question is when Facebook will do this. I give them 2 years, tops.