Randi Zuckerberg: not sharing my photo is a matter of "human decency"

Digital etiquette: always ask permission before posting a friend's photo publicly. It's not about privacy settings, it's about human decency — Randi Zuckerberg

After accidentally making a private photo public on Facebook, Randi Zuckerberg is lecturing the world on "human decency" in the wake of its spread across the 'net. The level of grandiosity and entitlement, from someone so deeply involved in creating the rat-maze that encourages these mistakes, has Dan Lyons in angry form.

How awful this must have been for you! How... invasive. What a violation. How terrible that someone might take something that belongs to you and use it in ways that you had not anticipated, and for which you had not given explicit permission! What kind of world are we living in when just because you post something on a website someone else can just take your stuff and do things with it?

And yet, yet, there's something weirdly contrived about the whole thing, which just happened to be a photo of Zuckerbergs ostentatiously enjoying a new Facebook feature.

I know there's a word for people like this, but I'm not a psychologist, so will instead just say that maybe they aren't quite like you and I.


    1. Tedious moralizing about “human decency” in response to a failure-by-design of the more-or-less-antithetical-to-what-you-are-allegedly-asking-for platform you are closely associated with is also a pretty bad idea(in addition to being enough white whine to keep me plastered for decades).

      At least when normal saps get chewed up and spit out by the internet’s sociopathic underbelly, they end up looking like actual victims.

  1. Randi: your ignorance and simple user error does not have anything to do with anyone else’s human decency. Mmmkay? You made a mistake; learn from the consequences, just like the rest of us.

  2. “rat-maze” is right. I just cannot understand why my less-than-technical friends all congregate on FB. I don’t get it. The UI is ridiculously confusing. I’m an IT guy, and I find it so confusing as to be unusable. So I don’t use it.

    1. me too! I don’t understand how FB can take such a simple concept and wrap so much bad design around it. And… it seems to get worse with every new version.

    2. It’s bad, but it’s popular. People complain that their parents, boss and everyone they ever knew are on there (therefore it can be embarrassing/an invasion of privacy etc.), but as someone who has family and friends on six continents I find it far better than email for sharing what’s going on in our lives with people we may never see face to face. I hate the search function and many other aspects of the interface, and obviously the privacy issue bothers me. However, these things are just taking a fairly small part of the value away from what is an almost unique resource for me. Other networks don’t interest me precisely because my family and friends aren’t on them (for the most part).

      1. as someone who has family and friends on six continents I find it far better than email for sharing what’s going on in our lives with people we may never see face to face.

        Do you or any of these other people really derive anything of value from batch processing each other?

        1. well, for example, I’ll recognize my nieces/nephews who I’ve never met. I hate Facebook as much as anyone, but the network effect makes it the single best way to casually stay in touch with extended family internationally.

          1. well, for example, I’ll recognize my nieces/nephews who I’ve never met.

            Unless you’re having some kind of personal interaction with them, even if it’s only online, it seems like an imaginary relationship.

          2. I doubt you’d feel that way about it if you were alone on a spaceship millions of miles away from your loved ones.  It’s not the communication layer that’s being used that’s important…. it’s the fact that we want to communicate with each other.

          3. Disagree. I used to moderate a popular discussion board. For years many of us only knew each other from the ‘Net. We were scared of what might happen when we met in person. Yet, over time, we did all meet in person and we found that for the most part we all liked each other just as much face to face as we did online, and even more than we expected. I am still friends with many of these people through Facebook.

            On my Facebook page I have reconnected with many old friends from high school and college. I like them now just as much as I did back then, and enjoy seeing the videos, photos, thoughts, and ideas they are sharing. I am happy to get to know them again as adults and free from the drama of the age when we first met.

            I also find that a few of my cousins who are much younger than me post enough that I am starting to get to know them. 

            If you think Facebook is the place to slam your partner, to share details of your latest date, or upload photos of your food, you’re using it wrong. But, if you recognize it for the semi-public space it is, it can be a lot of fun.

          4. But you actually became friends with them. That’s different from people using FB like one of those annoying mimeographed Christmas letters and pretending that they have friends, when they really only have readers. Or more likely, throw in the trash and don’t readers.

          5.  Please.  Tell that to The Well.  Of the thousands of users, I have only met a handful in real life, yet I consider my relationships to the rest of them to be very non-imaginary indeed.

        2. OK, here are a few things that I get from Facebook:

          When I was younger I traveled for three years with an organization and spent quite a bit of time with people from many different countries. When I left a number of them didn’t even have email, but we found each other again through Facebook. Many of them don’t have yearly newsletters (which I don’t even like, especially if my email then gets filled up with large attachments) or blogs (which I’d say most people shouldn’t write, especially if it’s just about family / personal life). Even if they did, I find Facebook much more useful as a less formal way to find out about many different people.

          My wife and I going through the process of adopting a child who we’ve been fostering for the past two and a half years. He doesn’t have a passport so most of our families (including my in-laws) have never seen him. We have a page with regular updates on the process and have heard from many people who wouldn’t have been on our mailing list. For us, the process involved getting documents from multiple locations in five different countries. We sent out a request and people in three of those countries organized the documents for us.

          A number of times people I know have been involved in global events, such as the Manila floods or conflict in the Middle East. Seeing their take on things personalizes the issues a lot more. There are also a lot of personal events that I value seeing regular updates on, and posting on Facebook is a more interactive (not to mention effective) way than sending a group email.

          As far as interactions over Facebook not being real relationships goes, a lot of this is personal. Facebook often makes certain relationships possible that would be difficult or impossible to maintain without a format like this. Along with Skype it makes living away from family a lot easier. Even if you don’t have a direct relationship with younger family members who you only see online, it certainly helps your relationship with their parents and eventually with them when you do meet up!

          1. When my husband was overseas during Sandy, his good friend was able to arrange a hotel room for my in-laws by hopping on Facebook chat and getting my husband’s help with locating a hotel for them on the web and making the reservation. It was an amazing use of technology – his parents and I had no power, but the friend in Virginia did and so did my husband.

  3. Come on, guys. If I took items from my friends’ timeline and spread them out in the open, they’d be mad too. And rightfully so. “Human decency” is a tad melodramatic, but then again, this is a fight being fought via Twitter.

    1. This isn’t republishing private photos, this is her broadcasting her public photos due to Facebook making publicity the default “privacy” setting.

  4. I haven’t studied or practiced exponents lately. Even if she had a reasonable expectation that this would be shared no further than _friends of friends_, what’s the total number of people she should have expected to see it (1), and how many of them would be people she might not know (2)? I’m assuming an average of around 500 friends per FB user, probably a very conservative guess for people as rich or famous or connected to FB as a Zuckerberg. And an underestimate for a lot of average users too.

    (1) 500^2 = 250,000 friends and friends of friends ?
    (2) (500^2)-500 friends = 249,500 friends of friends ?

    Didn’t she ever see that shampoo commercial? “And they’ll tell two friends. And they’ll tell two friends…”

    1. There are probably a lot of duplicates in that 250,000, depending on how many international friends you have. Still, it would be a lot of people.

  5. A year ago I saw Randi at a panel at an Autodesk event. She spoke first and immediately left, with her small entourage, when she was done. Every other speaker stuck around for, you know, the panel. It was strange and a little appalling. That is my Randi Z story.

  6. I think the billions of dollars she’s living on via the halo of her brother is more than enough compensation for a stupid family internet picture. Get much attention, lady? This would have gone away if she didn’t say anything, and I think she new that.

    Now she’s famous by association, like so many celebs these days. Be the sister, child, or BFF of someone famous, and you are famous too, right!?

    1. That kitchen looks like it was built by someone who had heard a description of kitchens, but never actually cooked a meal. Or had contact with living humans.

  7. Wow, a lot of hateful comments here. Her sister was apparently friends with the woman posting the picture. So, yes: If I see a picture of a friend (or a friend-of-a-friend) on Facebook, I don’t post it publicly on Twitter. And I think that’s a question of decency. A few comments here seem to suggest that Facebook would take your family’s christmas photos and post them on billboards around the city. As far as a know they’re not doing that.
    P.S.: And her having a lot of money/being famous is a really messed up argument for denying her the right for privacy.

    1. Well, they may or may not be posting your family photos to promote facebook, but they have the right to. Because they own everything you upload.

    2. I think you seem to missing the reason why this is getting so much attention.  As a high-level employee of Facebook and the sister of its creator, Randi Zuckerberg represents the company whether she wants to or not.  Rather than criticizing the privacy controls of Facebook for creating a system which makes it difficult/impossible to keep information private, she attacks the person who reposted the picture.

      I also do not understand why you associate Facebook with privacy and Twitter with being public.  Right now I can see a “Randi Zuckerberg” page with over 1.4 million subscribers and a number of public posts.  What is the difference between posting publicly on Twitter and posting publicly on Facebook?

    3. “Wow, a lot of hateful comments here”

      Live by the privacy-destroying, die by the privacy-destroying.

      If you don’t understand why people are cackling, you apparently don’t understand how Facebook works.

  8. Finally, one sane comment, all the way at the very bottom.

    If I post a picture on Facebook that is visible only to my friends, what’s to stop a friend of mine from posting that picture somewhere public? The question has nothing to do with Facebook’s privacy features or terms of use (because it’s not Facebook’s role to remind users “Just because your friend showed you something on Facebook, that doesn’t mean your friend will be ok with you showing it to the entire world”). The question also has almost nothing do with copyright law (because, yes, while my friend is violating my copyright by copying my Facebook picture and posting it on another site, people who post things on Facebook in general do not expect the protection of copyright law). It really does have to do primarily with human decency.

    TL;DR: If your friend shows you something personal, what stops you from then showing it to the rest of the world? (A) Some site’s terms-of-use agreement or privacy features? (B) Copyright law? or (C) The fact that you don’t want to be a jerk? I agree with Randi Zuckerberg; It’s mostly “(C)”.

    (Edit: I meant this to be in reply to Jan Krems’s comment, but I don’t think it came out that way).

  9. The “human decency” drama comment rings hollow to me because while it seems to be something she expected to be seen only by her circle, it’s also pretty obviously a posed photo, with everyone hamming it up. It’s not a candid shot of a private moment, taken without the subjects’ knowledge, or nudity, or anything that looks the least bit sensitive.

    So, while I wouldn’t normally post/re-post a friend’s pic on facebook or twitter without mentioning or attributing it to them, I also normally wouldn’t think twice about doing that while mentioning/attributing it to them. Mind you, normally, the things I gank in this way are memes or jokes or what have you, rather than personal photos. Still.

    “Manners” might be a better term than “human decency” in this instance.

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