Facebook and Privacy

Facebook's recent rollout of "personalization" has privacy advocates up in arms. While many of the complaints are directed at Facebook's wholesale change in privacy settings and the fact that they have made it impractical for consumers to control their personal data, and a vocal few are going ad-hominem on Zuckerberg, I'm struck by the asymmetry of passion on both sides of the issue. A passionate handful disagree so violently with the new policies that they are modifying their profiles or deleting them all together. And those who are less concerned suggest that Facebook isn't to blame, and  common sense should prevail.

Facebook is trying to change the role it plays  on the Internet and in the lives of its members. Becoming the default public profile service online and personalizing the Internet aren't bad ideas. Many companies are trying to build businesses on these ideas. But Facebook's implementation of these ideas is tacitly forcing, through implicit opt-in,  several hundred million people into a new set of services about which they know nothing.

This isn't uncommon in other aspects of life. Insurance, ISPs and credit card companies routinely change policies and the terms of engagement with the most passive notification to consumers. Lists are sold and resold.

But this is Facebook. A place where people "friend" each other and where people routinely discuss leaving the office early for a beer or their frustrations in the workplace. A place where people post pictures of their families and discuss medical issues. Why do people share this content? Because, it's human nature. Facebook is a social network designed to encourage sharing.

Facebook's stance is that the age of privacy is over. I disagree. People do share more. But people deserve to understand and control how what they share published, particularly in the context of a network that purports to be closed. Unless there is a change of course, these policy changes, when applied across a user base of five hundred million,  will have ´╗┐effects in the lives of many people.

Several hundred million people just got poked.

Human Banners- Oh Wait, They’re Called Sandwich Boards?

HB recently wrote a pretty compelling summary of the relative size of Google, both in terms of market cap and share of the ad market. Eye opening, to say the least: Welcome To The Googleconomy.

Those who have been viewing the gPhone-Android-OHA developments of late as a Symbian rehash or a non-event should look at Google’s position in the overall advertising market. It’s amazing to me that when a company that makes its money in advertising (and not just any company) leads the launch of a new mobile platform, so much of the discussion remains around software platform and applications.

Much ado about…

Over the past few days the discussion around who "invented" video overlay ads has reached a new level of, well, intensity Videoegg greeted YouTube’s announcement with a gutsy positioning "welcoming YouTube" to the format, which provoked a response from Jeremy and the discussion devolved into this (you can see my comments here).

While Videoegg’s response to YouTube may have seemed a bit silly, it helped create a debate (admittedly with the help of someone looking to start a debate) in which Videoegg is mentioned in the same breath as YouTube and Brightcove.

The interesting thing here is not the debate over the overlay ad, but, given that there are an infinite number of potential formats for ad units in digital video, why anyone would focus on the format itself. The challenge for Internet video is to make new saleable ad units, and that requires participation from major stakeholders- consumers, agencies, and advertisers. The divide between the what is technically possible with Internet video and what is being bought by advertisers is vast- and the energy around something as seemingly simple as an overlay ad only highlights this gap.