Facebook, data and privacy

Facebook Open Stream APIIt’s early in the backlash cycle as people come to terms with what Facebook is and isn’t providing via its Open Stream API (and developer Wiki). Check out Xobni and Seesmic for details on some of the early examples of how it can be implemented.

ReadWriteWeb however offers a slight lament at how limited the data reach is, and overall Marshall’s post is spot on (IMO). Make sure you read the comments (especially comment 21 which captures the correct attitude pretty well I think).

The debate is mostly around privacy (as it should be) and how much Facebook is honouring privacy, contrasted with whether Facebook users actually understand the privacy terms. Scoble brings monetization into the discussion also. It’s a tricky situation.

The issue for me however is a much longer term one. It’s about credibility. Whilst I agree we are on a juggernaut of openness at the moment, and network after network is clamouring to open up its data, I think the tide is starting to turn. Our brazen flaunting of any need for privacy is starting to change. The pendulum will start swinging back – I’m predicting within the next 12 months – and when it does we’ll see services like Twitter, FriendFeed and the multitude of others come under close scrutiny as to what they provide access to. Watch then as they compete with each other to put the brakes on…

Amidst this, Facebook – if they hold true to their current stance – with be heralded as being reliable and trustworthy. They tread carefully. Credibility will count for much soon, and instead of rushing to ease access to data, companies need to be ensuring they have people’s real interests at heart.

Currently we all think its fine to have our personal information out there for everyone else to consume. But I’m starting to see signs that this casual approach is losing its appeal. The smart social networking companies will be thinking very carefully about how they match openness with privacy. I believe Facebook is one such company.

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  1. Pingback: Facebook Open Stream Apps | TechRepeater: Microsoft, WordPress & Social Media

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