Facebook’s “Like” button and the end of private privacy

Near the end of April 2010, Facebook announced their Open Graph initiative with an API allowing developers to rapidly integrate Facebook tools such as the “Like” button into arbitrary web pages.

What does this mean, exactly?

That’s a really good question, and the answer isn’t at all obvious. Certainly, the amount of consumer data Facebook will collect is staggering. The precision with which they will be able to sell targeted demographic data is unparalleled.

And the difficulty of overcoming Facebook’s barriers to personal privacy amount to, essentially, this:

  1. De facto, privacy on Facebook doesn’t exist. If it’s on Facebook, you had best treat it as public.
  2. Private privacy no longer exists in the Facebook ecosystem. If you want to be “private,” everyone knows what you’re treating as private. That is, your privacy is public.

One pernicious side effect is that you don’t control your presence on Facebook.

Don’t want pictures of yourself posted on Facebook? Don’t allow anyone to take pictures of you. You can’t really stop someone from posting their own pictures, and if you’re in one of them, too bad for you.