[Air-l] Facebook response

Alex Halavais halavais at gmail.com
Fri Sep 8 11:51:02 PDT 2006

Since some following the Facebook events may not actually be using
Facebook, I've copied Zuckerberg's response below.

I do think there are parallels between this and the release of the AOL
search data. In both cases, designers failed to predict the potential
privacy implications of their systems. It's worth contrasting these
with another rollout over the last few weeks: Flickr's addition of
photo geotagging capabilities. I would be surprised if Flickr actually
engaged in more participatory design than Facebook or last.fm has, but
they made clear when you started geotagging that it would affect your
privacy, and gave you a reasonably fine-grained control over who would
see what.

I'm not suggesting that more participatory design and evolution,
particularly for social systems, isn't a good thing or a necessary
thing. But I think a more pressing issue may be preparing our
designers--both on the CS/application coding side and on the
designerly user experience side--to think more about the moral impact
of their code. Neither of these issues, I think, could have been
covered easily by the kinds of ethical codes already present (ACM,
SPJ, CPSR, etc.), but needs a more flexible approach that requires the
designer to think through and measure user responses.

On the other hand, some, including Zuckerberg himself below, have
suggested that the response was actually amplified considerably by the
technology itself, as it allowed for fairly marginal and low effort
social organizing. I actually don't think that this is a function of
the major user group being undergraduates. I suspect this is a
hallmark of a lot of current social uses of the internet, from
politics to knowledge building. I think that Wikipedia, YouTube, and
the Howard Dean campaign all benefitted from this ability to aggregate
very small amounts of attention/effort/money/time from a very large

[The following copied from the Facebook system verbatim.]

An Open Letter from Mark Zuckerberg:

We really messed this one up. When we launched News Feed and Mini-Feed
we were trying to provide you with a stream of information about your
social world. Instead, we did a bad job of explaining what the new
features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I'd
like to try to correct those errors now.

When I made Facebook two years ago my goal was to help people
understand what was going on in their world a little better. I wanted
to create an environment where people could share whatever information
they wanted, but also have control over whom they shared that
information with. I think a lot of the success we've seen is because
of these basic principles.

We made the site so that all of our members are a part of smaller
networks like schools, companies or regions, so you can only see the
profiles of people who are in your networks and your friends. We did
this to make sure you could share information with the people you care
about. This is the same reason we have built extensive privacy
settings – to give you even more control over who you share your
information with.

Somehow we missed this point with News Feed and Mini-Feed and we
didn't build in the proper privacy controls right away. This was a big
mistake on our part, and I'm sorry for it. But apologizing isn't
enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly.
So we have been coding nonstop for two days to get you better privacy
controls. This new privacy page will allow you to choose which types
of stories go into your Mini-Feed and your friends' News Feeds, and it
also lists the type of actions Facebook will never let any other
person know about. If you have more comments, please send them over.

This may sound silly, but I want to thank all of you who have written
in and created groups and protested. Even though I wish I hadn't made
so many of you angry, I am glad we got to hear you. And I am also glad
that News Feed highlighted all these groups so people could find them
and share their opinions with each other as well.

About a week ago I created a group called Free Flow of Information on
the Internet, because that's what I believe in – helping people share
information with the people they want to share it with. I'd encourage
you to check it out to learn more about what guides those of us who
make Facebook. Today (Friday, 9/8) at 4pm edt, I will be in that group
with a bunch of people from Facebook, and we would love to discuss all
of this with you. It would be great to see you there.

Thanks for taking the time to read this,


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// Alexander C. Halavais
// Social Architect
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