On Facebook’s Weird Privacy Wall: No Comment on Friend-of-Friend

Mostly I think Facebook is doing a great job. Truly fantastic. I don’t think they are evil or conniving to do anything evil with our personal information – and are certainly less likely to do so than practically any traditional corporation out there. They were born out of the deep core of the Internet, where people (i.e., geek-a-zoids) tend to be more interested in groovy technology and real (not superficial) security.

But today I noticed a “privacy wall” that I just thought was weird.

A friend of mine commented on a post of one of her friends. It used to be that I could then comment on the resulting thread, but nowadays it seems instead that Facebook shows me the entire thread, written by a bunch of strangers, but does not let me interact with any part of it – not even on the portion that my own friend wrote. But I wanted to interact! 😦

So that’s really bizarre.

I remember reading in one of Ralph Nader’s books – must have been over ten years ago – that over the years the large newspapers had reduced the percentage of space devoted to community participation (i.e., Letters to the Editor). In a given issue of a publication, Nader’s research found that comparatively less space was being devoted to allowing the public to speak-back on the topics which were being discussed. It was becoming more of a monologue than a dialog.

You might say that for the magazine or newspaper, that is their right – after all, they are paying the cost of publication and distribution. Of course that’s not really true (in my own geek-a-zoidic opinionated opinion), since the advertisers and readers pay those costs, and the advertisers would stop paying it if there weren’t any readers. So the readers provide funding for the media to continue operating – it really is a partnership with the publication’s management. But people don’t tend to look at it in that way, mostly. I don’t understand how they can avoid looking at it that way.

But when you take a “publication” like Facebook, having been born out of the deep-core of the Internet, it would be fair for you to expect otherwise, no?

Here are two guidelines I would propose for any social networking site:

  • Allow the participants to control what information they share. Facebook follows this one, even if the controls are often very abstruse and change more quickly than people can keep up with.
  • If a participant has the ability to read something, then you MUST also give them the ability to comment on it. There’s gotta be a dialog.

Just like here on this blog… if you are reading this, then you are able and welcome to comment. 🙂

But the friend’s thread I came across this morning, where my own comment would have added invaluably to the Fabric of the Universe ;-), did not allow me to comment :-(. So all I can do is blog about it…

Image credit: rejon from the Open Clip Art Library