There’s no doubt Americans love the democratic process. Not only do we regularly elect our public officials to represent our viewpoints as they govern our communities, but we also like to see that process in play as we vote non-idols off of the stage, bad survivors off the island, take random internet polls of Hollywood’s worst dressed, and choose whether or not one of today’s Washington Post editorials was accepted by its readers. Facebook’s decision to ride the wave of our electoral habits will further transform the way we receive, interpret, and share our daily news and information. This will also affect how our information is shared with fellow Facebook users, retailers, and advertisers.
In recent weeks the world wide web has taken another leap closer to becoming totally socially integrated. The integration of Facebook’s recognizable “like” “dislike” and “share” buttons have already begun to pop up around subscribing mainstream news sites throughout the U.S. Facebook developers call this the new way to personalize your online experience. Facebook users will have the ability to review exclusive content on participating websites. Now more than ever it is easier to share information and news relevant to friends and family while at the same time express one’s individual approval over content. Persons simply wanting to read and filter content in a vacuum will not be able to avoid the opinions of fellow readers along with their own approval or disapproval of its subject matter. How will this change the way we evaluate news and the validity of facts and information? Furthermore, how will Facebook users privacy be compromised and reputation judged as they pin their names and faces to seemingly controversial websites and news topics?
Top executives of Facebook believe that some portions of the new Facebook web integration will allow users to actually have more personalized control over news and information sources. At the same time, these changes will promote a social conversation over shared content. However, US Senators Mark Begich (D-AK), Al Franken (D-MN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have joined forces requesting Facebook take swift action to alleviate any privacy concerns of its users. Currently, when a Facebook user signs into a participating website (such as Pandora) with their Facebook log-in to receive exclusive content, view comments, and share with fellow Facebook users, they are asked to “opt-out” to prevent sharing personal information with users, the website, as well as advertisers. Senator Schumer argues that the Facebook user should be able to choose to opt-in to shared data when the question is posed. The other concern is that confusion will generate among users, especially young adults and children, who will not understand the term opt-out and privacy issues that may be at stake if this selection is ignored. Companies like Microsoft Word and Apple have trained their users for years that “cancel” is the automatic default button. With a slight of the index finger, a Facebook user could potentially risk sharing personal information and consumer habits with websites, retailers, and fellow Facebook users.
Aside from the Senators’ arguments, how trusting can a Facebook user be of one’s privacy settings if they are constantly changing? As retailers (and now a large portion of the web) are interwoven with the social connectivity giant, anonymity within the world-wide web can no longer truly exist. The ability to access information anonymously was part of the original beauty of the internet’s design. It comes down to the old adage of user control over content versus public access of private information. Facebook states that all of its ad targeting is accomplished anonymously: neither the advertiser nor the user are exposed to another’s data. Would the mainstream Facebook user elect to have their identity and reputation compromised at the expense of connecting socially over content? It is problematic to combine the uniformed user diving into total web integration with ever-changing privacy settings.