Business Magazine

Do You Know What You're Sharing?

Posted on the 22 November 2011 by Alizasherman @alizasherman

Stock-keylockI was dismayed to read the Tech Crunch post "Facebook and the Age of Curation Through Unsharing" by Josh Constine. I found it to be an arrogant and even frightening look at how online information sharing could be going with a call to action to "learn to filter out the noise in reverse, opting out when we don’t want to share instead of opting in when we do."

Of course, this was just my gut reaction, but here a few things that bothered me about the piece. I've italicized excerpts.

Facebook’s Open Graph is ushering in a monumental shift in how we curate what we share.

This lede right away tells me that Facebook, once again, may be trying to push through a major change in how our information is being handled, and to some extent, we are at the mercy of the company leader's careless whims. Already, I'm on the defensive.

Curation used to mean opting in to sharing...I believe we are entering the age of curation through unsharing, and it will force us to change.

Curation still means opting to share. If we are forced to change our online behaviors to opt out of sharing - if sharing is automatic with every action we take online - that is not called curation. That is called Invasion of Privacy.

Some believe “frictionless sharing” via Open Graphs will be the death of curation. 

"Frictionless sharing," aka Invasion of Privacy, won't be the death of curation. It will be the death of our expectation of privacy. Or at the very least, a threat to it.

The article goes on to talk about the higher noise that will occur as everything we do online gets reported automatically to our friends. Anyone remember Facebook's Beacon?

And then the author places the burden on you - on each of us - to learn how to "unshare" with some onus on developers to "get them to cooperate" by including 'unshare' options on apps and sites where the set up is or may soon be to automatically share all of your actions.

I think the thing that infuriates me the most about the ideas put forth in this article is that it takes complete advantage of many people's lack of understanding of what is happening with their information and actions when they interact with sites and apps. Yes, we should all be more educated about what happens when we do something online. But most people aren't - and don't think like - techies, developers or marketers. Most people treat their computers and smartphones as appliances. That may be wrong, but it is often the reality. 

Consider this: In the pre-Internet days, we used to pick up the telephone to make a call, and we had every expectation of privacy. But even today, when we make a call on our smartphone, there is an implicit expectation of privacy there, right? When we turn on our television, we have always understood this is a private act, that what we watched on our TVs at home would not be known by others unless we chose to share that information.

So imagine now if we made a phone call and the fact that we were on the phone or the name of who we called was made public on our social news stream. Or that when we turned on TV, what we watched was instantly shared. We'd be outraged, right?

Clearly, as consumers, many of us have a false expectation of privacy when we connect to someone else's website or use someone else's app because we're using a computer or smartphone - an appliance - without fully thinking through the ramifications of our everyday use of these devices. But where are the lines being drawn between our expectation of privacy surrounding what we do on these sites and a company's desire to broadcast our actions to drive traffic, increase branding impressions, push sales?

We should NOT have to opt out of sharing when we take normal actions of accessing information, purchasing products, interacting online in what should be non-public engagements.

Jerry Epstein at Never Stop Marketing commented about this concept of having to opt out of sharing in his post Sharing an Interest in Sex? On Default Opt Out. He elaborates on Seth Godin's early treatise on the concept of Permission Marketing and also explores what this kind of "opt out sharing" means from a marketing standpoint i.e. should marketers and content publishers be doing this? Jerry doesn't take a strong stand against it but does say he feels it is running up to - and possibly over - the line of Permission Marketing.

I say NO, don't do it. If you are a marketer or content publisher and you are doing this, you are crossing the line. Remember the class action lawsuit against Facebook for Beacon? Enough said.

And I think every one of us should say NO to this type of information sharing process to keep it from becoming a trend or a communications shift. Sharing what we are doing online should be our choice, not something that others force on us as a default setting.

This isn’t natural. Often the best product design is translating existing behavior patterns to new mediums. But the proliferation of content, in both volume and access, requires a brand new conception of sharing and curation. Together we can bring about a golden age.

Golden age? The Invasion Age is more like it.

We all need to be more aware of these insidious ideas and movements toward unleashing our actions online into the social streams and forcing us to have to pay even closer attention to privacy settings that are hidden and change often. We should not accept the premise that we need to learn a new habit and get used to "opting out" of sharing because these sites and apps are going to share news about your actions whether you want them to or not. We need to boycott the sites and apps - like the Washington Post - that perptetuates this premise.

An action you can take: Have you noticed on Facebook those new "news" feeds at the top of the regular news feed that says what your friends are reading? Do NOT click on those, and do not allow the news apps access to your reading activity. And if you are using them, remove access and delete them from your Facebook permissions. There are many other ways to actively share what you are reading.

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