Saturday, September 17, 2011

Facebook's new Subscribe button - implications for me, similar concerns for you too?

From early reading, the new Subscribe option makes public Facebook posts more useful, especially if you start gaining an audience. Herein lies one of the issues for me. I and I believe many other FB users are not looking for an expanding audience. On FB, I am looking to interact and discuss and share with my friends. I realize that over time FB has evolved to support company pages and fan pages and pharma pages, and like pages, etc. all in my opinion trying to evolve FB into a platform for more than that which it was originally envisioned.  Evolution is ok, but we have already seen that the complexity of FB permissions is not only confusing to people, it is confusing to the apps and perhaps not always working the way the user posting may expect. I have over time seen differences in the interpretations of information flows (let's call it that for the sake of it) in my iPhone FB app vs what shows on my page. It's tough enough to set a default security on FB for all of the various things there, it is tougher still to set different ones based on your intended (note, I did not say targeted) audience.  Which brings me to how I use FB and the other social networks and my expectation of the levels of privacy I expect in that use. 

I use Twitter to speak with a public audience. This is where I am 'working my brand', I'd like to see it expand as far as it's legs will take it based on common expertise, interests, tasks, topics, etc. with others as a public as well as more localized (ie followers) expect it to go. Here, the conversations by the nature of the micro-shouts vary and are not specific to my expertise, my work, etc.  They are what they are and it is a fantastic place to interact with others of similar mind or interest on any topic.  If outside of your typical brand conversation, you just hashtag a particular conversation so as not to bore others that follow you. But for this freedom, my expectation of privacy here is absolutely zero with only a direct message being a message just between myself the the person I have sent it to.

I use LinkedIn to communicate with more specific peers, both as connections as well as via the groups I am part of.  Here, I expect that my posts are considered public except when I message someone with InMail of which I expect the same level of privacy as regular email. I am not saying that is necessarily how it is, just my expectation of it's use. I also use it to keep connected with my contacts on the professional side as they move around, move on, retire, etc.  LinkedIn is far better at this then a private system could ever be unless I were to frequently communicate with everyone with who I am connected; something I and I expect others am not prepared to do.  Some of the complexity of the expectations for privacy here is that this platform too continues to evolve into more then it was intended and as such layers of complexity lay waste to layers of expectation for what I am posting to only be viewable by the specific audience (ie: my connections) I may have intended.  So by practice, I only post what I can accept anyone seeing. I also tend to limit my connections to people with who I have an expectation of professionalism and trust, limiting my network to those I know,  have experience with a or common trusted thread rather than anyone who wants to connect.

Note that for the purposes of this post, I have left Google+ out as I do not yet have much experience with it.

So in summary, Public = Twitter, Business / Public = LinkedIn, Private (expected by my settings) and more personal = Facebook.  This is the way I view them.  The problem is that Facebook wants to be all of these.  This is how we got to the current layers of security and complexity within the platform.  In my Facebook use, my security is set to Friends Only, not Friends of Friends or mixed levels of posting.  This is why I believe that my posting is limited to my expected audience, expanded only by inadvertent view by a friend of a friend sitting in front of the same computer when sharing.

The new FB Subscribe option would seem to provide yet another layer of complexity on top of an already complex product. While it could spur more public sharing a la Twitter,  if others use these tools with similar expectations or assumptions as I do, it could raise more privacy concerns for a social network that has already had its share of privacy controversies.

What do you think?


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