03 May 2010

Graph Studies: Facebook Privacy

From Xn Jrdn at bng bng:

In an essay and handy infographic, DeObfuscate lays out the inverse relationship between Facebook's growing market share and the erosion of user privacy.

I just want to draw your attention to the top label on that plot: "Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announces that he 'knows people don't want privacy,' despite the growth of his company through once positive privacy practices."

First of all, revealed preference. Second of all, the whole point of this graph is to try and show that Facebook has grown while their privacy policy has worsened. That label claims they grew when they had good privacy. The rest of the graph claims they have grown when they had bad privacy. Aren't those at odds?  Rather than being an inverse relationship as Xeni Jardin claims this rather self-evidently shows there to be no correlation between market share and privacy by the graph's own claims.

I'm not even sure what that "market share" label on the y-axis means.  It's supposed to be for "'general' social networking" but what does that mean? 84% of all users with social networking accounts use only Facebook?  For that matter, what does having a monopoly on a service you give away and users can opt out of at any time mean? I've been hazy on that ever since the brouhaha over MSFT bundling IE with Windows.

Jardin concludes with this:
Finally, words of wisdom tweeted by Tim Spalding over the weekend:
Why do free social networks tilt inevitably toward user exploitation? Because you're not their customer, you're their product.
Specious. I'm not the customer of NBC, or the Washington Post or any other ad-supported industry, I'm their product. Just like Facebook they sell my eyeballs to advertisers. And yet I'm not exploited by them. Explain that discrepancy.

Hell, I'm not paying for Boing Boing either. Does that mean they're inevitably exploiting me?

People put up with "exploitation" from Facebook because (a) they don't think they are being exploited, (b) they're getting a product for free so they put up with some shit, and (c) they benefit from the network effects of being on the same platform as their friends.

I don't particularly like Facebook or their privacy policies, or Mark Zuckerberg. But I dislike shoddy arguments even more.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies... It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.
— Albert Einstein

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