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Facebook Friends Forever?

How about those latest Facebook privacy changes? It seems every few weeks the social networking giant awakes with another set of rules regarding who can see your information, who can post things on your wall, who is allowed to comment on your status. If they keep clamping down on the rules Facebook may have to be categorized as an UNsocial network.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who apparently just finished puberty, announced his company’s most recent changes to its privacy controls:

We’ve focused on three things: a single control for your content, more powerful controls for your basic information and an easy control to turn off all applications.

This news made international headlines. NBC Nightly News dedicated a big portion of its broadcast last week to tell this story. That is how big Facebook has become and how privacy on the Internet continues to be an issue.

I find it interesting that Facebook users are so passionate about these ever-changing rules. If they really cared about their privacy they would a) not have an account, b) be extremely careful of what information and photos they post, or c) take the time to figure out how to adjust their privacy settings.

These new changes do make it easier for users to check and alter their settings. Instead of multiple pages there is now one consolidated page with simple marks to check or uncheck.

But why are they so passionate when other services use and share their information with others? Many service providers like electric companies, ISPs and cable operators share subscriber information with marketing companies.

I think it is because subscribers have no personal connections with these others services. We pay a monthly bill for a dial tone, cable TV feed and power to light our homes. But we have a very direct and personal connection to content – in this case a website – that flow through these services.

Facebook and other social networking sites are windows to our lives and souls. I can’t brag about my son’s great SAT score through my electric bill but I am more than happy to share that with my 3,000 Facebook friends. A little deducing from some of these “friends” and it’s not hard to figure out the age of my kids, where I live and where they go to school. That is why users need to go back over those three options above and not take their privacy settings for granted.

This online social phenomenon is only growing. Facebook has over 500 million users and my 9 year old son has yet to sign up. Maybe by the time he reaches college Facebook and other similar sites will have this privacy thing down to a science.

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