Nerding Out

strongAlfredo Gil, Beacon Columnist/strong

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg uttered these words last year in an on-stage interview with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington: “The age of privacy is over.” He argues that Facebook is reflecting the norms of a changing society. This statement simply isn’t true  —  Facebook is shepherding these changes for its own self-interest.

The new Timeline profiles introduced in September at this year’s f8 Developer Conference — a forum for developers, entrepreneurs, and innovators to share ideas about creating a more social web — organizes your information into a literal timeline of your life, like an online biography. Beneath the surface of expert design, its true purpose is to make it easier than ever to index and sell your life and relationships to marketers.

Timelines rid the human intimacy of sharing stories because they’re cheaply made available as soon as a friend request is accepted. Throughout our lives we change as people and we’re giving up authorship of our life’s story to a computer algorithm made public.

Facebook also introduced a new “frictionless sharing” model, which forgoes selective sharing  —  it shares automatically. The apps to first take advantage of this are Spotify and The Washington Post. Every song you listen to, and every story you read, is shared. In short, it encourages over-sharing because the more information Facebook has on you, the more they can sell to advertisers.

Critics like Mike Elgan, a Silicon Valley-based writer, argue this will create friction among users due to embarrassing music or stories you prefer not to broadcast due to their sensitive nature  —  religion, politics, health. My criticism lies in the long-term application of this model: Zuckerberg envisions a future where all products are integrated socially. On stage at f8, Zuckerberg used a cooking application as an example. Every meal you cook, every mile you run, every thing you do will be shared. Don’t bother thinking about it  —  it’s shared.

Facebook’s closed system uses the ubiquity of their identity service to seize control of the Internet’s content and keep it within their system. Google contrastingly thrives off a democratic open web. Google envisions sharing with your friends and the open Internet at large while remaining relevant to every group. The sociological breakthroughs of Google+ bring the niceties of social groups and levels of intimacy to the forefront while respecting your privacy.

Facebook has tried incorporating these new models, but complicates their system because it’s jumbled with how they want you to share  —  openly. They then refuse you access to their data because your life is their intellectual property. Google’s transparency is showcased in Google.com/dashboard. Google and Facebook both want your information, but Facebook’s only avenue is through an antiquated model of tyrannical, indexed, personal over-sharing bound to cause privacy issues.

Facebook’s success is due to timing and brilliant strategic expansion. It revolutionized the way we network, but unfortunately, its sharing model is now broken. Once the social high of being in college wears off and the online popularity contest doesn’t matter anymore, we won’t need Facebook to gather. Facebook represents the greatest disregard of our rights since the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and the apathy to which we’re giving our rights away worries me. We don’t need governments to fulfill the prophecy of 1984 —  our generation’s Big Brother, Mark Zuckerberg, has done it. And we “like” it.

emGil is a senior marketing major and a Beacon/em emcolumnist. /em

emHe can be reached at alfredo_gil@emerson.edu./em

emFollow him on Twitter @alfredosays/em