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rwandering.net

The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

Facebook backs down

Yesterday I posted about the change in Facebook’s TOS.  I thought they might back down, but I didn’t think it would be this fast.

The old terms are back in effect: delete your account and so goes your data.

A minor success for users everywhere – even those who don’t think this stuff matters.

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Google Reader Misappropriated Our Shared Items

image_thumb[1]Earlier in the week I stopped using Google Reader for a few days.  Every time I started it, I would be reminded of their new sharing features (see the dialog on the left).  Then I would close the browser tab. Why?

Google changed the Reader user-contract with no notice.  This rankles me.  I’ve lost control of my shared items.  This is a dramatic change with only the weakest of opt-outs.  What’s more, any opt-out is too late.  My items have already been shared.  What kind of opt-out is that?

Oh, but there are more options.  They give us the ability to manage who gets to see our shared items.  But only after others have a chance to read them.  For example, I can hide my items from my “friends” who are on Google Reader.  Other “friends” that start using Google Reader will get to read my shared items immediately.  The onus is on me to make sure I actively manage the list. 

And the icing on the cake?  “Friends” wasn’t a word in use by Google Reader before.  Now it has been defined to mean my Google Talk contacts.  No fair.  This is not analogous to Facebook “friends”.  In Facebook, I accepted people as “friends” based on the Facebook definition.  Now my Google Talk contacts are my “friends” based on Google’s new definition.  This is clearly backwards. 

Is Google breaking their terms of service?  Almost definitely not, but they are changing a basic part of the user-contract: that user data won’t become more public without user consent. This is a perfect example of the “User-Beware contract“, summed up as: “we’ll change the user contract whenever we feel like it.”

What’s next? 

Your email contacts have been shared with your friends

Your emails have been shared with our advertisers

You calendar entries have been shared with your . . .

You get the idea.  This may seem like a joke, but frankly I don’t know what is in store for the user contract.

Steve Gillmor suggests this is arrogance on Google’s part, and he’s probably right.  Yet mostly people are ignoring this or don’t get it (e.g., Scoble doesn’t seem to get why anyone would care). 

Why is the blogosphere giving Google a free pass on this one? 

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With Beacon, Facebook is not the problem

Unless you live under a rock (or don’t follow the social space) you know that there has been a big uproar of Facebook’s Beacon.  This is the feature that enables 3rd party web sites to transmit your actions (or “stories” in Facebook lingo) to Facebook. 

If you want to know more about how it works, Jay Goldman wrote the excellent post: Deconstructing Facebook Beacon JavaScript.  The title belies the fact that the article gives a good overview too (it isn’t just for developers).

An innovative idea — one that reminds me much of the GestureBank work conceived by Steve Gillmor and myself.  Given that, it should be no surprise that I don’t think Facebook did anything “evil” here. 

Now, they could have done a better job with it.  From the get-go, I would have preferred if they had

  • been more public about how it works; and
  • required that users “opt-in” to the whole program.

Not surprisingly, there was a backlash and Facebook made some changes (Official- Facebook Flips On Beacon).  Great.  I don’t think what they did violated their user contract, but the changes are more user-friendly.  I would prefer my User Aware contract, though this is a User Beware contract (User Contracts – Part II- User Beware). 

But, the problem isn’t with Facebook or their user contract.  If you don’t like the service (in total), don’t use it.

What I don’t understand is all the focus on Facebook here.  Like all silos they are capturing data, data, data.  That is what Facebook is all about.  

Why isn’t the focus on the 3rd parties who submit your stories?  They are the ones pouring user stories into Facebook. There have been reports of users not having approved their stories.  This is a bad thing, and maybe a technical flaw in Beacon, but ultimately it is the responsibility of the 3rd party to protect your data.

They should give the users control over their Beacon settings:

  1. Never send stories to Facebook
  2. Approve each story before it is sent to Facebook.
  3. Always send stories to Facebook.

If anything, Facebook should require this of its Beacon partners.

So, why aren’t people up in arms over the eBays, TripAdvisors, Yelps, Fandangos, Epicureans, etc.?

But, hey, if you don’t like the way these sites are spraying your data over the Internet, then stop using them.  

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Gillmor’s Group on Facebook

Recorded a show with Steve and the Gang last Friday.  Steve says,

Last Friday we recorded a new show titled The Gang. I’m initially asking those interested in hearing the results to join this Facebook group. Looking forward to seeing you there.

See you there? 

this is Robert's profile

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OpenSocial payback?

Many are calling Google’s OpenSocial play an apparent retaliation against Facebook for their recent Microsoft deal.  The reasoning is that both Microsoft and Google were bidding for a Facebook ad deal.  Microsoft won, so Google is going to make Facebook, and by extension Microsoft, pay.

Perhaps it is payback, but certainly the OpenSocial strategy predates the Microsoft agreement.  Not even Google could pull this whole thing off in just a few weeks.

This begs some questions:

  • Did the losing proposal from Google include OpenSocial?  Did it require that Facebook adopt the APIs?  Did that push Facebook to Microsoft?
  • Alternatively, was Facebook threatened with OpenSocial as a retaliation?  That is, did Google offer to shelve OpenSocial if Facebook accepted a Google deal?

It isn’t yet clear (to me anyway) whether or not Facebook was briefed on OpenSocial.  Google said yes, then no.  Facebook said no, but some evidence points to them actually having known. 

  • Are these differing stories rooted in non-disclosure agreements dating from the failed negotiation between Google and Facebook?

Final question:

  • Does anyone really believe that Google would have shelved the OpenSocial strategy just for an ad deal with Facebook? 

I for one do not.

For an excellent post on Facebook / OpenSocial, read Dan Farber.

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