Katherine Losse, Facebook’s 51st employee, has recently left after spending five years at the company. Rising from customer service representative to ghost writer for Mark Zuckerberg, she’s recently left Facebook to live on a farm and write a book: The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network. I haven’t read it yet but found the interview – Facebook Refugee Unplugs From Social Media : NPR – upsetting enough.
LOSSE: Yeah. I think that one thing people should understand about any kind of technology is that these are constantly evolving technologies. The products change all the time. And so I think that’s one of the tricky things for users, is that the product can change. And so you might have put your – you know, posted information when it – the product looked one way, and then the product changes, and the user has to adjust. I think that’s a difficult thing for users to deal with sometimes, because sometimes it means that the privacy settings end up being slightly different than what they anticipated. And that’s just sort of the nature, I think, of how these things develop. And it’s something that users should be really conscious of as they’re contributing to the system.
This is a very diplomatic way of saying that Facebook doesn’t really care about what it says its settings will do. It can redefine them at any time. I think it’s ridiculous to blame users claiming that technology is evolving so therefore it’s okay to expose sensitive information. If Facebook would like to know why no one really trusts it anymore. This is why. When a privacy setting describes that it will do X then it stops doing that that is a breach of trust, not evolution of a product.
A caller, Alex, expresses his concern that corporations are buying his personal information…
LOSSE: Yeah. I mean, it’s – that’s a tricky thing. You know, the company has to make money to run the servers and grow, but also, it needs to keep in mind that users want their experience to be, you know, protected and respected. So I think that’s something that is going to be really tricky for any of these companies as they become, you know, big and seek out profits.
This is the other reason why people don’t trust Facebook. It may be noble to not want to charge for the service, but I think that users would prefer paying for a better service over having their information bought and sold. The major difference between Google ads and Facebook ads are that when people use Google their intent is to discover products and services. To learn things. When people are using Facebook, the user intent is very different. There is a lot of power knowing your customer’s demographic, but honestly the products I “like” now are no clear depiction of my demographic. The only things I really “like” are products of friends, to show support. Honestly, because I saw how Facebook clearly did not respect my privacy, by changing the settings, I didn’t trust them to not share my personal information with companies that I “like”.
Honestly, today, I rarely share on Facebook. I use Facebook as a glorified address book, mostly because of the points above. I stopped trusting them. LOSSE is not to blame for what I discuss above. What shocks me most is how she diplomatically explains these things, as she herself has left the social network and is critical of it herself, but doesn’t seem to hear quite how bad these explanations sound.