Interview with Facebook employee will not make you feel better about privacy issues

If you're already rethinking your participation in Facebook after the recent privacy dust-ups, you will not feel better after reading this interview with a person identified as an unnamed Facebook employee. (via @mackreed)


    1. The first few comments from the article source’s blog seem to think it’s fake too.

      And as for not making me feel better, all I feel is indifferent. Except for the using of a master password to gain access to user’s accounts, there’s nothing surprising revealed here. Any site where you can upload or post content runs on a database. Any social networking site that wouldn’t back up their databases wouldn’t last long at all. And as for keeping user info after the user has deleted it, how is that a shocker? Google archives everything and deletes nothing. When will people get the fact that the internet is a public place and whatever you put here is likely to remain permanently public. Caution is required, and not just on Facebook.

  1. Er.. how is this interview supposed to “not make you feel better about privacy issues”?

    Sounds entirely typical of an organisation that collects private data, of which I have been in several. I can, and have, seen private data of clients during the normal course of my work.

  2. Why would I not feel better? It doesn’t feel fake, either. Every company which has a large user base does the exact same thing. If this makes you worried about your privacy, think about banking application.

  3. I agree with IronyElemental.

    Nothing in this interview is even CLOSE to being surprising; if you’re using Facebook you agreed to all of this stuff by checking the box next to “Terms of Service.” Nor does it really bother me that much and here’s why:

    Facebook provides an extremely useful service, but they are a for-profit company and they exist to make money. Why would you NOT expect them to save your data forever? They will sell as much as they legally can to advertisers, and as the article points out, they also need it to maintain the basic functionality of the site and to prevent problems and abuse.

    I understand why targeted advertising comes off as creepy to some people, and I understand that there is an inherent potential for Facebook employees to abuse their power. But it’s not like somebody is going through all of my personal information, stalking me, judging me, whatever. I don’t really care if a server bank in California can figure out who my best friend is or what my favorite film is and I don’t care if another server bank can use that information to try to sell me something. I don’t care AT ALL – to me this seems like a negligible price to pay for the convenience of Facebook.

    Facebook’s decision to change default privacy settings is something I’m not entirely happy about, but in this I’m concerned not with what impartial computers and algorithms know about me but what personal information people who have some kind of interest in me should have. This is a BIG DIFFERENCE, though I can understand why Facebook feels that more openness between users makes their site more useful. In any case, users do have the power to change their privacy settings to be more restrictive. (Most of my content is visible only to friends, but some is visible to my high school and college networks and friends of friends.)

    Mostly, complaining about privacy on Facebook frustrates me because anyone using Facebook must know that it is a voluntary service run by a company that wants to make money. This is not the government compelling you to reveal this data. No one NEEDS to use Facebook, and even if Facebook isn’t drawing your attention to what they do with your data, they’re not hiding it either; their right to do this stuff is clearly spelled out in the Terms of Service. Obviously, the silent majority of Facebook users feel that the value the service provides is greater than the cost to privacy.

  4. So what is suppose to make me feel worse?

    Hell I refrain myself enough as it is on Facebook. My close friends know more or less the real me. All my other “friends” would probably be shocked if I threw out some lewd reference from/to 4chan…

    If you posting on the internets it’s going to be here forever.

  5. “See, the thing is — and I don’t know how much you know about it — it’s all stored in a database on the backend. Literally everything. Your messages are stored in a database, whether deleted or not. So we can just query the database, and easily look at it without every logging into your account. That’s what most people don’t understand.”

    This is how _all_ websites work…since the beginning of time. That whole “master password” thing is just an administrator password which every server/router/switch/firewall has. If you have that password you can read anybody’s email/watch their surfing habits/poke into their home directory at _any_ company. If this is even remotely real it sounds like they interviewed someone that just started to learn how to use computers in the last year or two. Shit, this is how the BoingBoing website works even if they don’t harvest your data in this specific way they could….WITH THE MASTER PASSWORD…FROM THE DATABASE! I can’t believe anyone is taking this seriously…this is retarded and I need to go to bed…….

  6. I’m pretty sure some of the information in this article is just plain untrue. If the “type-ahead” search is what I think it is, then it does nothing like what they say it does.

  7. Never post anything on a server you don’t control unless you’re willing to have it reach people you didn’t intend it for. ANY server.

  8. I don’t feel any worse for reading this; it sounds like Facebook employees could abuse their powers and invade your privacy, but mostly chose not to. Which pretty much describes your basic human being.

  9. As others said, there’s nothing really surprising in this interview.

    I guess I’m a little surprised that the DB isn’t encrypted. It makes the possibility of data leaks much, much greater. However, to have everything be encrypted would almost certainly make the site much slower. It’s not at all surprising that the admins are able to log in virtually as users. As a programmer I’ve had to do the same thing for users who use our website many, many times. Such a thing is standard. The fact that they now have this system requiring their employees to enter in a reason seems very forward-thinking.

    Also, I agree with ArnoDick: as far as I can tell, the type-ahead feature doesn’t work as implied. If I start typing “b”, I get the first “Aaron B. XXX” friend listed (who I’ve never once communicated with), follow by the next “A” person with a “b” somewhere in their name, and finally, only after the third letter typed, do I even see my fiancee.

  10. It may feel creepy, but I would like more targeted advertising. If they can figure out who or what I like and only serve up ads for that stuff (movies, video games, pizza, geekware), I might actually give them a click through from time to time.

    Heck, I recently clicked my first banner ad in years because it looked interesting and seemed a good demographic fit (video game ad on a webcomic site).

  11. I’m not sure why there’s a big deal about Facebook privacy going around. If you don’t want your information shared, DON’T SHARE IT.

    My Facebook profile has: my name, my email, and my google voice number (which costs ten bucks to change if it ever gets out of control). I choose not to share my actual birthday (1/1/80 is usually what I list) nor my favorite anythings, nor my relationship status or education/work history. It’s all optional, so I opted not to list it.

    I understand privacy is important, and to me it’s a huge concern. But like a few other commenters mentioned, if you don’t want to share it, don’t put it online. Web companies have proven time and again they shouldn’t be trusted, and the next social site to pop up will probably make the same mistakes, and we’ll have the same discussion all over again.

    Twitter has it right: they don’t ask for anything to begin with, so there’s no risk of them messing with your privacy. Keep your drunken orgies offline, and you keep your privacy under control. Or better yet, start your own site, your own domain, your own set of privacy rules, and then there’s no one to blame but yourselves.

  12. OMG on the Chuck Norris thing!

    This interview has sealed the deal. I’m well and truly a hater now.

    Here is my prediction. 2010: the year Facebook went Myspace.

Comments are closed.