Mark Zuckerberg, Social Media's Howard Stern?

Use to be only the likes of Howard Stern could motivate the Federal Communications Commission to consider prohibiting access to certain communication mediums. However after Mark Zuckerberg unlocked his Open Graph 'Pandora's Box,' it looks like he might be under the same type of scrutiny with the federal government that the shock jock experienced years ago!

In referencing Pandora's Box, one of Facebook's major 'privacy-infringing' deals is with the music site Pandora. With Facebook's new Open Graph and social plug-ins, you can now see your friends' taste in music - a feature that last week didn't exist. Robert Scoble and other social media gurus are pondering this next phase of development on the Web and are questioning whether we have moved one step closer to the end of privacy?

Has Facebook broken its contract with users to keep our private data… well, private?

Senator Charles SchumerSenator Charles SchumerApparently, there are rationale arguments on both sides of the aisle. And one of them happens to be emanating from the Federal Government.  In a press release issued by Charles Schumer on April 25, the New York senator is raising privacy concerns over social networking sites like Facebook.

Since the launch of Facebook's Open Graph, Schumer is urging the FTC to provide guidelines for social networking sites on how private information can be used and disseminated.

Previously, users had the ability to determine what information they chose to share and what information they wanted to keep private.  Now Facebook users must go through a complicated and confusing opt-out process to keep private information from being shared with third-party Web sites.

Opting Out of Instant PersonalizationOpting Out of Instant Personalization

Robert ScobleRobert ScobleWhile the definition of privacy is different today, than it was even ten years ago, it will most likely look different still even in ten years hence.  Robert Scoble noted in a Business Insider post, that he was "personally bored with the discussions about privacy, and states that "there's a lot of goodness that comes from pushing us to be more public with our lives." He goes on to site the example of Google Buzz which of course got their hands slapped recently by users when they started sharing information with users' Gmail network contacts.

Scoble further states, "The truth of the matter is that we are going to live our lives from now on — at least in part — in public and we need a new kind of privacy contract with the companies that use our data."

In the world of location-based social networks, privacy is truly exposed publicly. FourSquare, Gowalla, and BrightKite are all location-based social networks that can post your exact location to one's entire network. People have privacy concerns about all of those networks, though. The Web service Please Rob Me used Foursquare and Twitter to plot where people were at any given time? It showed that if you open up your location to the public, people can also see where you aren't, which could be dangerous.  Their home page blatantly demonstrates their position on this issue.

So, while Mark Zuckerberg differs from Howard Stern markedly as to what pushes his 'hot' buttons, they both have pushed the boundaries of acceptable standards in the realm of privacy and sexual discourse. While it appears that Stern is passed 'shocking' the public like he did in his early career, Zuckerberg at 26  is going to be around for a long time pushing the 'privacy' envelope open as wide as possible. More debate is needed before this will be resolved to the satisfaction of the majority of their 400 million registered users.

UPDATE: April 27, 2010 - Four senators ask Facebook to make privacy fixes to new OPEN GRAPH features. In addition to Sen. Chas. Schumer, they include  Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Al Franken (D-Minn.). They say the new feature invades the privacy of the popular online social network's more than 400 million users.

UPDATE: April 28,2010 - Schumer and colleagues are taking on social networking giant Facebook for possibly exposing the personal information of its users and making it too difficult to opt out of that information being shared with third parties. Schumer's staff met with the Facebook officials for 90 minutes, and awaits answers on several outstanding questions pertaining to 'privacy' issues. Schumer wants to see changes, especially after his daughter, Jessica, a law school student, called her father to complain. And the senator has said he and others are looking for the FTC to promulagate new rules for responding to this and possibly other problems with social networking sites, while remaining conscious of striking the right balance between freedoms and civil liberties.  

In tandem with the objection from the Senate, a privacy watchdog group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, also said it was preparing to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The group is calling for greater scrutiny of how Facebook uses the data that the privately held company has amassed over its six-year history and for clearer privacy guidelines for all social networks.