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Blog: Why (Most) Facebook Users Don't Care About Privacy

Blog: Why (Most) Facebook Users Don't Care About Privacy

Whenever a privacy issue arises in the Facebook landscape, it only draws the ire of a loud minority, comprised of the media that covers Facebook and a couple privacy organizations. But eventually, most Facebook users forget, and that is if they ever learned of the incident in the first place. I don't expect the changes Facebook recently made to its terms of service to be any different.

If you didn't hear (an ironic qualifier if you keep reading), this weekend, the New York Times broke a story making people aware that Facebook now looks at your data even after you've terminated your account.

While it's very important the media doesn't sleep on these issues, the anecdotal evidence suggests Facebook users don't care about privacy. And they will continue basking in their ignorance until several of their identities (thousands or millions) become seriously compromised.

Historically, this privacy ambivalence has been the way of Facebook's broad, general populace. Most Facebook users have never even heard of the Beacon Advertising incident back in 2007, when Facebook (and partner advertisers) began showing users' buying behavior from partner sites. For example, if you bought movie tickets from Fandango.com, and you were logged into Facebook when your performed that action, a message stating that transaction would be made available to your Facebook friends.

Moveon.org, the political action committee, got a loud minority to sign a petition back then protesting Beacon, and it even caught the attention of 60 Minutes when they did a profile on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who had apologized for the incident.

After Beacon, Facebook did right by their users and offered an opt-out of "social ads." Facebook also added robust security features that allow users to control who sees their profile information with great granularity.

So why don't most Facebook users care about any of these developments?

Well, it depends on how cynical you are, but I believe most of them don't know what's happening and can't be bothered to learn, either. I'm 25, and while you can count me amongst the core constituency that made Facebook the phenomenon it is today, my reading habits aren't the same as the majority of my peers (which is to say many of them don't read the news). As such, it's great that Techcruch, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal report about privacy issues, but don't expect many Facebook users to hear about it unless it's broadcasted over a two minute YouTube clip or Jon Stewart takes a jab during the Daily Show.

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