When Do Facebook’s Cavalier Policies Start Damaging Beyond Repair?

How long will Facebook continue to develop and institute new developments that cause irreparable harm for all others in the digital space?  I get it, at this point, we need Facebook as they have developed an unrivaled platform for social media. But there are risks to others – both businesses and individuals – that are causing quite a bit of concern.  Many people are happily dropping all guards in regard to privacy so that they can participate and the results can make Big Brother a reality in ways people never dreamed.

You can check out a report on Bloomberg Businessweek covering the uproar about the facial recognition software that Facebook instituted in the EU recently.  The feature enables users to be identified on the site even if they didn’t approve of the photo – or have a friend post it.  It caused somewhat of an uproar in the US when they launched it 6 months ago, but they have done what they have consistently done in the past – sheepishly apologize (or not) and continue doing it.  The US is more forgiving, (or if you read an earlier post on this site, present grandiose announcements about regulations that do absolutely nothing) but it will certainly push other countries who are not forgiving to possibly make some more stricter regulations.  If you question that, check out the rules in France about mention of social networking sites on television and how products can be marketed online and on TV there.

The general concern by all and what the  EU is expressing is shown in the article by Stephanie Bodoni:

A group of privacy watchdogs drawn from the EU’s 27 nations will study the measure for possible rule violations, said Gerard Lommel, a Luxembourg member of the so-called Article 29 Data Protection Working Party. Authorities in the U.K. and Ireland said they are also looking into the photo-tagging function on the world’s most popular social-networking service.

“Tags of people on pictures should only happen based on people’s prior consent and it can’t be activated by default,” said Lommel. Such automatic tagging suggestions “can bear a lot of risks for users” and the European data-protection officials will “clarify to Facebook that this can’t happen like this.”

Facebook’s response is generally that people can opt out.  As we have seen with their growing privacy policy, the ways in which to opt out of Facebook features is getting to be extraordinarily challenging.

If they continue to do things like this with no concern for how the “improvements” will be received, it could lead to much higher regulations globally causing extra barriers and costs to doing business globally.

Either Facebook needs to grow up a little bit, or someone needs to push them to not be so brazen with their user’s information.  Just because technology exists doesn’t mean it should be used.  Facebook has many smart people – they’ve got to start working in a better way to ensure they don’t damage things for themselves and others beyond repair.

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