Let's recap: When they're thinking of their members, they respond to trends like an increasing desire for real-time updates with a new live feed, keeping in mind that some people might not like it and, with a click of a tab, allowing you the power and control to retain the old sporadic news feed.
When they're thinking of their wallets, however, they sell all of your information to search engines, and make it as difficult as possible for you to opt out of contributing your part to the cash flow.
The new privacy arrangement is opt-out, not opt-in. They give you the illusion of choice when you log in ("We've changed our privacy settings; have a look and see if you want to keep them this way"), lulling you into a false sense of security and failing to mention that the other things that have changed -- like the fact that your friends list is now visible to everyone on the Internet by default -- are buried much, much deeper on the site.
Naturally, and with a sort of "Here we go again" flavor, the shift has immediately provoked a backlash among FB members and privacy advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation. What it's done for me, though, is remind me of the importance of one of my Golden Rules: Never put anything online that you wouldn't want to see on the front page of the newspaper.
Just don't. Embarrassing-but-human photos, OK. Photos of you engaging in illegal activity, not OK. Jokes, OK. Vitriolic arguments with your soon-to-be-ex-wife, not OK.
To be fair, Facebook isn't alone in this move, anymore than Eve was alone in taking a bite of that Granny Smith. If it weren't for a certain Redmond-based search engine waving wads of cash in Mark Z.'s face, there would have been very little reason to open up the databanks. And now 350 million individual Facebook users find themselves in the same position as every newspaper in the world: Do we really think it's okay for search engines to appropriate our information and make money from it?
*Kaila pauses. Reflects for several minutes. Doesn't know the answer.*
On the one hand: newspapers are in the business of providing information, not restricting access to it. They benefit when more people come to their sites by way of search engines. Much like the recording industry, they're also facing a seismic shift in the way people access information, and will ultimately have to adapt their business models to reflect the fact that consumers no longer play by the old rules.
On the other hand: they invest a lot of time and money to create (we hope) quality journalistic content. And it's one thing to publish a snippet and a link, but when that content is republished in its entirety, the newspaper is not sustainable.
And we individuals are not in the business of providing information, through our own channels or otherwise. We are in the business of being ourselves, of having our friends and going to work and living our lives. Advertise to us if you want, but don't suck us into supplying you with the raw materials for your inventory. It's not what we signed up for.
What do you think about it? Let me know in the comments, or on a channel where I choose to make my data public: @kcolbin.