You may have read about Randi Zuckerberg’s recent issues with Facebook’s privacy settings.
Randi is the sister of Mark, former Director of Market Development for Facebook, television correspondent and creative force behind the recently cancelled reality show: “Start-Ups: Silicon Valley.” Her holiday troubles were caused by an innocuous picture that she posted on Facebook which “tagged” her sister. The picture appeared in one of her sister’s friend’s new feeds, the friend shared it on Twitter and Randi was undiplomatic in her response to seeing her picture shared (despite the irony that it was made available on Facebook).
A lot of people justifiably called out R. Z. for being rude on Twitter and for blaming people for sharing something that she made available to them. She wrote that people should ask others before sharing their photos, which would be reasonable if it wasn’t counterproductive to the functionality that Facebook favors.
How she reacted is for others to gossip about, but what I find illuminating that she reacted at all.
Smart bomb sharing with dumb bomb technology
On my plane trip back from Seattle this morning, I had opportunity to to re-read a portion of Chris Brogan’s Truth Agents, and one of the passages asserted that people with a high digital aptitude understand that everything that they do will eventually become public. I think this hypothesis is dissonant from how users are actually behaving on social media. Zuckerberg may be a prime example.
Here you have the digitally-adept Randi Zuckerberg intending to share a photo exclusively within a circle of friends, only for it to have unintended distribution. From a larger perspective you see a movement towards privacy in the growth of Instagram and Tumblr with teens and twenty-somethings, with Kathy Savitt proposing that a lot of the fragmentation is because kids don’t want to socialize where their parents and grandparents do. Shelley Turkle was recently on NPR’s Fresh Air discussing how kids are growing up with less developmental autonomy from their parents because of social media, and a recent study describing that content shared across different social circles is a cause of distress seems to reinforce this.
The conclusions that I take from all of these are the following:
- Users want easily controllable privacy features
- Users want to use social media tools for the same purposes that they may use email or some IRL interactions
- Social networks currently don’t have the privacy controls that their users want
When users like Randi Zuckerberg use gross social tools like Facebook to try and perform specific social actions problems like R.Z.’s happen. And there isn’t an evident solution, particularly with the segregation among major social networks and fragmentation of niche social networks.
Is Facebook the future?
If Mark Zuckerberg’s sister is appealing for users to discern her intentions before sharing pictures (that Facebook’s OpenGraph placed in their news feed), I suspect that there is a need for a more agile filter that can be both a Facebook and a Path (which is an example of a small-scale closed social network). If that’s true, I also suspect that the shareholder pressure that Facebook is feeling and Twitter may soon face will prevent them from being able to implement a feature that could assure that intended privacy.
What do you think? Is the option for users to filter or fragment? Or is this an isolated example of someone asking Facebook to do something it’s not capable to do?
And I hate to perpetuate gossip (not really), but if you’re looking for a saucier response to R.Z.’s Tweets, you might want to read the comments on this BuzzFeed article.