BitDepth 710 - December 22

Facebook makes a fundamental change to the way it faces the Internet and raises privacy concerns.
Peephole in the walled garden

Of all the comments on the Facebook privacy issue, this strip by Nitrozac and Snaggy of The Joy of Tech summed it up best. Courtesy JoT.

By Tuesday last week, Facebook was well into the process of opening its doors to web indexing and a greater interaction with the Internet at large.
Suddenly the wall posts, photos and status updates of Facebook users will become visible in a Google or Bing search and the idea of privacy on the web, always something of a laughable notion, has become an issue for Facebook users.
In a note to the social network's users, founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote that: "The plan we've come up with is to remove regional networks completely and create a simpler model for privacy control where you can set content to be available to only your friends, friends of your friends, or everyone."
Networks go away in favour of the global network and Facebook users get more fine grained control over their content and how it is displayed. Zuckerberg's note attracted more than 42,000 comments in a matter of days and Gawker offered up some of his private, now public photos
for viewing.

For all of its existence until last week, Facebook is what Internet professionals call a 'walled garden,' a pretty, well-manicured space that exists in the larger world but is separate from it. In the thing, as we say, but not of the thing. 
It was, in many respects, the turn of the century incarnation of America Online, which offered similar tidying and organisation of an unruly web for a monthly fee. Opening its content to search engines fundamentally changes that.
On Facebook now, you should be warned, everyone means everyone on the Internet, not just other Facebook users. If you want to keep your information private on Facebook now, you'll need to use your privacy settings and specifically toggle who gets to see which content you post to the service on your account. If you're a secretive user, Facebook's new default settings are unlikely to make you happy.

It's likely to be a chore, but it's worth approaching carefully and with a strategy in mind. If you have potentially compromising photos on your Facebook page or rants you'd prefer your boss didn't find, you should immediately limit the access to that content on your account.
There's been some sabre rattling about the changes from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and much of those concerns are prompted by the sheer volume of personal information that's posted on the service. Facebook claims 350 million users worldwide, of which more than 140,000 identify them as 'Trini.' Even allowing for the diaspora that comprises a hefty chunk of all the people online in Trinidad and Tobago today.
A good rule of thumb about Facebook content is that if you wouldn't hand out a photo on the street or publish a post in the newspaper, it probably shouldn't be on Facebook either.

Here's another thing about Facebook though. It isn't the Internet, and it never was. It remains a privately owned service that offers a simplified, socially focused Internet for new users or people who wanted a web presence without the hassles of worrying about hosting, but Facebook was always about rules and systems setup to serve the company's needs. There was little flexibility of design, poor image reproduction and palpable disinterest in third party developer support.
Facebook brought a number of useful services together in diminished form and that proved valuable for novices, but there are better services on the web for people who have outgrown the network's training wheels.

Folks who post a lot of notes might want to take a look at the free blog service at Wordpress. Photographers dissatisfied with the one size fits all; shoddy compression of the photo pages will be very pleasantly surprised by the depth of offerings at Flickr.
Offering more access to the tidy pages of Facebook doesn't make the service any less sociable or more of a standards based player on the Internet, Zuckerberg may have punched a hole in the wall, but the service remains a gated community with an operating philosophy that remains at a remove from the open principles of the web.
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