Clarifying my thoughts re: Facebook and Twitter

June 3, 2010 | Blogging | By: Mark VandeWettering

I was listening to Leo Laporte and Steve Gibson’s Security Now podcast as I was commuting this morning, and found that Steve Gibson said something which clarified how I feel about Facebook and Twitter.

Lots of people are upset about Facebook privacy concerns. I’m not really among them. If I post something on Facebook, I pretty much understand that I’m publishing it and won’t have any control over where the information goes. And really, how could I expect any different? Facebook’s entire business model is to aggregate information about you and share it with others. They don’t want your information to be private, because they can’t do anything with your private information. Facebook entices you to register by not showing you what your friends are doing unless you do. And then, it entices you to add everyone in your email contact lists. It encourages you to type in information about who you are, when you were born, where you live, and what you are doing. By doing so, it can figure out all sorts of good stuff about you, and sell that information to others.

Facebook has the power to make us all celebrities. But that means that while we might get fans, we might also get paparazzi. Fame has a cost, and we should perhaps come to grips with it ourselves, rather than asking Facebook to do it for us.

That’s Facebook.

Twitter is almost the anti-Facebook. You can view anyone’s twitter feed without joining twitter. You can see who are following and who are followers of any Twitter user without becoming a twitter user yourself. To post, you need to register, but the only thing it asks you for is a username, and a “Full Name”, which could completely be a pseudonym. Everything about twitter takes place in public, so there is never any concern about privacy: you have none. They aren’t selling your information, because any advertisers could already get access to anything you post on twitter. Anyone can.

And when Gibson put it this simply, it made me realize that I’m actually more interested in Twitter as a result. If I wanted to share private information, I already have the means to do so, and probably should do so with more thought than I really give Facebook. But if I want to share information publicly, having a bunch of privacy protections in place is unnecessary.