This is not a big deal and – on top of that – what did you expect?
Facebook can (and will) do what they want. They’re not a charity. They’re not an online social network established for the greater good. They are a business. And, like all businesses, they are trying to figure out how to make a dime (and then how to make many more of them). Facebook is also free to users around the world, so how did you think they were going to makes those dimes?
It has to be more than advertising.
Sure, Facebook surpassed Yahoo! recently as the one online platform that has served the most banner ads, but in a world where everyone is a publisher, and the amount of content being published daily is staggering, it should come as no surprise that the value of banner ads (or any other form on traditional online advertising) is going to drop (both in price and people’s engagement) – with a few notable exceptions for the near future. In case you have not been playing along at home, the amount of people clicking on banners ads has dropped over 50% since 2007. On top of that, the inventory to place those ads is no longer limited (traditional advertising in print was always driven by the scarcity model – only a handful of places to get your message in front of a mass amount of people). There is plenty of inventory available on plenty of sites with plenty of choices in the Digital Marketing channels. It’s not like the "good old days" when a city only had one or two newspapers with a limited page count.
It never was about the advertising, because it was always about the data.
Facebook can tell you weeks in advance if your relationship is going to end (more on that here: The Slate – Facebook predicts your relationship is over). They can see if you are looking for a new mate simply by what’s you’re doing on Facebook (maybe you’ve been friending more boys or girls than you usually do, attending certain types of events, etc…). Robert Scoble of the famed Scobleizer Blog recently had a Blog post titled, Much ado about privacy on Facebook (I wish Facebook were MORE open!!!), which reminds me of Howard Stern‘s frequent rap that those who are doing nothing wrong should have nothing to be afraid of if the government and police start recording our every move in public spaces (who cares what they’re recording if you’re not up to any shenanigans?). That’s one side to take (while many others are concerned about their privacy and the information that is being stored against them).
Resign your privacy.
That’s not a new concept (in fact, it’s a big part of my first book, Six Pixels of Separation). The crux of it is this: if you want to use Facebook, and it’s free you’re going to have to be very comfortable with the fact that your information could become public. On the latest episode of the Media Hacks Podcast (SPOS #202 – Media Hacks #28), Chris Brogan (co-author with Julien Smith of Trust Agents and the author of Social Media 101) reminded us that everything we say and do online is being recorded and it’s forever, so you must guide yourself accordingly (it’s all public – from text message and emails to status updates and who you’re poking). As Facebook continues to look for more revenue streams, their only choice is to open up and make more of their content (or your information) public.
Let’s make a break for it!
On May 31st, 2010 there will be a groundswell of people looking to delete their Facebook accounts in defiance of Facebook’s current policies, terms and service agreement (it’s called, Quite Facebook Day). This seems silly to me. Anyone at any point in time can opt out of taking part in Facebook (or any other digital channel). No one is holding a gun to anyone’s head and forcing them to play Farmville. There’s even a new open source online social network called, Diaspora, being created for those who want more control over their online profiles.
Did everyone forget that you control what you publish… always?
If you don’t want Facebook to know something, why publish it? Granted, they have the trending tools to make some pretty accurate assumptions, but it’s pretty simple to not share on Facebook. What is the cost of not sharing? Therein lies the rub: the less you share, the less you connect, the less likely you will be to truly benefit from the Facebook experience (and other online social networks). In the end, if you’re a private person or concerned about your information, status, etc… there is only one option: don’t publish, don’t network and don’t connect.
Just be prepared for the consequences of truly being unplugged… and be sure to ask yourself if it’s worth it?