This time, at least it’s an opt-in process. Unlike with Beacon, automatic face-tagging, location tracking, profiles being exposed to search engines, giving Facebook’s partners access to personal details, and so forth, this time, Facebook gives users a chance to say “Sure, you can track/reveal these details about me” rather than assuming you want to share unless you say otherwise. Or, rather, at least Facebook’s business partners are giving you that choice, even if the thing you’re giving consent to is obscured.
Websites like The Huffington Post will tell your friends which articles you’ve read automatically after opting in to a sharing system. And, of course, I’m using the word “friends” in the liberal fashion that Facebook does where a “friend” could be someone you have no memory of talking to at a bar the week before or your friendly local debt collection agency. Having no Facebook, I can’t verify the details of the automatic notification system, but here’s an excerpt from The Globe and Mail:
The big print says, “Read the news with your friends,” while the explanation that your friends will see what you read appears in a jumble of small print. The big blue button that enables the connection says, “Okay, Read Article,” not, “Okay, Tell Everyone What I’m Reading From Here On In.”
Now, you could blame users for not reading the fine print (and I’m sure many people do), but how often do you read the EULA for a piece of software, the entire contract for a mortgage, your employment contract (I include you, grad students, when you signed a that form accepting your university’s offer of admission, giving the university dibs on your intellectual output), or even the quick-start guide for the gadget you just purchased? Legally, you would be bound by the terms in this latest encroachment on privacy, but why should the onus be on you to navigate the obscured text? After all, in this situation, you are not the client. You are the product.
I’m not going to stop you from sharing the fact that you read about Hillary Duff’s reaction to comments about her weight, but I think you should at least have the opportunity to make that decision for yourself.