I’ve been reading a lot lately about why the Facebook boat is destined to sink.
Opinions and reasons are as plentiful and varied as the cosplayers at Comic-con (read Matt Silverman (Mashable) and Eric Jackson (Forbes) for two differing yet equally valid opinions), yet for me there can be no greater reason than diminishing user trust.
I’m not going to rehash all the usual arguments about difficult and misleading privacy settings, user interest decreasing over time, or that the service is simply trying to be too big and the off-putting complexity that presents to users. No, instead I’m going to post this picture…
The advert, as you can see is plainly for something on the naughtier side of the internet, and even though people have a right to do what they want online (within legal reason), what got me was that the name and face attached to the advert were those of someone who I know. I’m not going to say who, for obvious reasons, but I will say that he’s got a wife and kids and I’m sure she wouldn’t (and probably not he) wouldn’t be happy knowing that his one-armed surfing preferences are being displayed to everyone on his Facebook contact list.
How can Facebook ever expect to maintain users and community when they can’t (either through ineptitude or unwillingness) keep our private habits from our friends, let alone advertisers?
Yes, the guy in question is partly to blame, but the flip side is that he, like the majority of Facebook users is not tech savvy in the way which the people reading this post are. He, like the rest of the unwashed masses simply don’t care about Facebook privacy.
I suspect he’ll start caring about it now if his wife sees the same advert in her sidebar, but like most people privacy doesn’t matter until it’s taken away and there’s a damaging consequence.
It’s issues like this, regardless of who caused them, be it Facebook, the user or a third-party that will cause the community to lose trust and without the community Facebook is worth absolutely nothing.
If Facebook wishes to survive long-term, it needs to learn to protect users and their data, not only from rogue advertisers and spammers, but also from themselves as unfortunately the masses are either unwilling, incapable (which I doubt) or simply don’t care enough to worry… until it’s too late.