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All hands on deck: Facebook’s emergency privacy meeting was a total failure

All hands on deck: Facebook’s emergency privacy meeting was a total failure

In apparent response to recent furor, Facebook called an all-hands meeting at the company with one topic in mind: privacy. What did they emerge from the shindig with?

An anti-hacking system. Talk about missing the fucking point.

This is why it’s hot

Facebook is on top of the world in two different ways right now. First, it has rather masterfully become the default social network for a significant portion of the Internet’s residents, and they got there with the careful application of very strategic moves.

In 2004, the site’s beginning, Facebook was strictly for Harvard students. Zuckerberg coded and built it as a book of faces to get everybody on campus listed together in a central location so they could easily find and talk to each other. It expanded to the rest of the Ivy League schools and, at that time, was still called TheFacebook.

It then grew to include all university students American and Canadian–a way to link friends who went away to college and find new friends and interests on campus. It flourished thanks to tech-savvy students who knew a decent thing when they saw it. They evangelized it to their friends, and a massive network began to spread.

Meanwhile, everybody outside of college saw the fun their college-age friends were having, and the seed of desire was sown. Everybody wanted in on the fun, new thing. In response, Zuckerberg expanded it yet again to include high school students and changed the name to Facebook after securing the facebook.com domain.

Again, a clever move: high school students are also traditionally savvy, and at least more likely to try new things and expand the social experience that Facebook wanted to become. It also became available to certain companies, including Microsoft and Apple. More techies rejoiced. The network grew, and so did the influence and appeal.

Up until September 2006, then, you had to be part of certain networks–affiliated with a college or company email, or an invite to a high school group–to become a part of Facebook. Zuckerberg also toyed briefly with the concept of providing Facebook to 500 different geographic regions, but he finally did the inevitable and opened the doors to anybody older than 13 with a valid email address.

By that time, most of the under-30 crowd had heard of and was aching to get in on Facebook, and the population jumped. Five million users in 2005 became 12 million users by 2006. Users were treated in 2007 to the introduction of the Facebook Platform, which offered the ability to tag users in notes, send e-gifts, post classifieds and create events. Facebook applications exploded in popularity and Facebook’s users skyrocketed to 50 million by mid-2008.

Fast-forward to 2010, and that number has octupled to 400 million users. Not bad for a startup at Harvard.

This is why it’s not

If Facebook has a fatal flaw, it’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has shown a relentless disregard for privacy.

Zuckerberg’s precursor to Facebook was Facemash, a Hot or Not clone built as a gag, and it needed people. Facemash, however, didn’t have people. Zuckerberg got people by. . . well, by hacking Harvard’s dorm networks and grabbing the student ID images. Classy.

When he later released TheFacebook, several of Harvard’s faculty members complained that they worked with Zuckerberg to create a site, but their ideas were stolen when he went a different direction. When the Harvard Crimson, the university’s paper, began to investigate, Zuckerberg trawled TheFacebook looking for students who identified themselves as members of the rag. Comparing their accounts with failed login attempts, he figured out their Harvard email account passwords and accessed them. Even classier.

Facebook, however, was relatively quiet on the privacy front for the large majority of its existence–another very clever business move for Zuckerberg. In the beginning, nothing in the entire site was visible to the entire Internet; only four pieces of information–your name, your gender, your profile image and your networks–were visible to Facebook members by default. Throughout 2007, the vast majority of a profile’s information continued to remain private outside of the networks to which users belonged.

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Comments

  1. Tim
    Tim Maybe I'll make a facebook profile for me, but not include one piece of significant or insignificant information, so I can "get" the people who run facebook and not make any money for them by way of their advertising methods.

    Or I can just continue to not have a facebook page in the first place. That might be even better! :)
  2. TiberiusLazarus
    TiberiusLazarus U.S.S Facebook Midshipman #1: We've got a massive privacy breach, starboard side Captain!

    Civilian #1: Oh sweet baby jesus do something captain! All my information is getting loose!

    U.S.S Facebook Captain: Hmm....Keep going.

    U.S.S Facebook Midshipman #2: What about the hole, Captain? We're flooding the seas with private data.

    U.S.S Facebook Lieutenant: I've got this anti-hacker net my son made in Boy Scouts.

    U.S.S Facebook Captain: Put it up ensign. We've got to get this shipment of crops out to the FarmVille Archipelago before sunset. You would have given that information away anyways civilian.

    Civilian #1: DOT...DOT...DOT.............
  3. Kwitko
    Kwitko
    Tim wrote:
    Maybe I'll make a facebook profile for me, but not include one piece of significant or insignificant information, so I can "get" the people who run facebook and not make any money for them by way of their advertising methods.

    Or I can just continue to not have a facebook page in the first place. That might be even better! :)

    Both ideas: PURE PWNAGE!
  4. Shiva I have a facebook page with most of my former co-workers and friends. 99% of the time the only posts i see from them are the incredibly ridiculous jedi mind trick games (farmtown etc). Or that one of them has finally gotten a job. Could anything be more boring?

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