Facebook ‘Like’ Plug-in Sparks Privacy Concerns

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Facebook’s new social software tools could help it colonise the web, but pundits are debating the privacy implications

5) Too creepy? Opt out!

Does that register on your creepy metre? You can opt out, but not without jumping through some hoops. When you decide to opt out, according to Facebook, note that friends may still share public Facebook information about you to personalise their experience on these partner sites unless you block the application.

If you click “No Thanks” on the Facebook notification on partner sites, partners will delete your data. To prevent your friends from sharing any of your information with an instant personalisation partner, block the application: Docs.com, Pandora, Yelp.

6) Why does Facebook want to do this?

The motivation is to increase sharing and improve ad targeting, though there are no publicly revealed plans for how the social network will populate websites with social ads.

Altimeter Group’s Jeremiah Owyang, the analyst who said he believes Facebook is out to colonise the web, noted: “All this social aggregated content will yield a powerful database of what you and your friends like, the precursor to customised web experiences and social advertising.”

7) The fallout for Facebook’s business

Fast Company’s Robert Scoble summarised the fears of many prominent geeks and pundits. Noting that websites with Like buttons will be the norm, not the exception, in a few years, Scoble said this gives the social network tremendous control over the web:

“My fears are that Facebook might turn evil and use its position against organisations, the way that Apple locks out organisations from shipping apps (do you have [a] Google Voice app on your iPhone yet? I don’t). Imagine if Facebook wanted to turn off the New York Times, for instance. It could. And that’s a LOT of power to give to one organisation, even one that’s earned my trust like Facebook has. This is why I keep hoping Google has a clue (so far it hasn’t).”

8) What Scoble meant about Google

Google is not the socially inclined machine Facebook is, and many believe Facebook and not Google will be the primary search and advertising vector with its new social web plans.

Deep Focus CEO Ian Schafer wrote in Advertising Age that the intelligence collected from relationships, likes, locations and virtual transactions will be eventually more valuable to advertisers than click-through and search behavior. That means Facebook could eventually out-advertise Google AdWords and AdSense.

9) Open Graph is evil

Chris Messina, an open web advocate for Google, doesn’t see Facebook’s Open Graph API as very open:

“When all likes lead to Facebook, and liking requires a Facebook account, and Facebook gets to hoard all of the metadata and likes around the interactions between people and content, it depletes the ecosystem of potential and chaos—those attributes which make the technology industry so interesting and competitive. It’s one thing for semantic and identity layers to emerge on the web, but it’s something else entirely for the all of the interactions on those layers to be piped through a single provider.”

10) OpenLike could rival Facebook

Facebook’s universal Like buttons don’t sit well with many open standards advocates not named Chris Messina. Indeed, Hunch co-founder Chris Dixon was so put off by Facebook’s march on the social web that he and other programmers created OpenLike, an open standards-based approach to sharing social data between websites.

“I feel like everyone is falling asleep while Facebook and Twitter are taking over,” Dixon told GigaOm. Will OpenLike gain traction? Maybe, if Google adopts and fuels it.

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