Bad Facebook, No Cookie For You

As was widely reported, Facebook pro-actively made some changes to users’ email preferences recently: forcing the default email address for every user to switch to an address and displaying it to all their friends, regardless of what the user had previously chosen.

News quickly spread and most people (myself included) quickly changed their e-mail setting back to what it had been before Facebook forced the change. Annoying, but a minor inconvenience, right?

Maybe not. Today, a co-worker discovered that his contact info for me had been silently updated to overwrite my work email address with my Facebook email address. He discovered this only after sending work emails to the wrong address.

And even worse, the emails are not actually in my Facebook messages. I checked. They’ve vanished into the ether.

For all I know, I could be missing a lot more emails from friends, colleagues, or family members, and never even know it.

F*** you very much Facebook.

If you’ve got my contact information in your phone or address book, please check to make sure you’ve got the right email listed?

UPDATE 7/1: Greetings, CNET readers. Thanks for stopping by.

When You Point One Finger, Three Point Back At You

It’s easy to be outraged when you read about recent racist going-on in states like Arizona and South Carolina. The offenses are so egregious that they’d be laughable if thy weren’t real — Lightening the faces of schoolchildren in a mural? One serious candidate for governor calling another candidate (and President Obama) a “raghead“?

Really? This is what America has come to?

Looking around the Internet you’ll find a lot of pixels spent decrying how terrible it is, wondering why people feel it’s OK to do this sort of thing today, and generally exuding an air of smug superiority that they are so much more enlightened than those awful racists.


I wrote this a few years ago. Exactly how much has changed?

Racism exists even in the deep-blue zones of San Francisco. We do better than most, but even here we still struggle. Look around your friends, neighbors, and co-workers. You probably can point to a bunch of people whose families come from India, China, Japan, Europe, and similar parts of the planet. Blacks and Latinos though? Not so much.

And no, I am not naive enough to think that there’s a simple solution to the problem. Just saying that before you point a finger, think a bit abut how it could be pointed back at you.

Online Privacy Is Not An Oxymoron

It’s hard to put together a blog post on Facebook and privacy when Stowe Boyd has already said pretty much everything I wanted to say, and said it far better than I.

Still, after seeing several friends severely cut back their Facebook presence or outright leave Facebook altogether, I though I’d have my say.

Ever since the Internet has been around, the concept of sharing not with the world, but with a select subset of the world, has been a huge part of the fabric of the social web. It still is. Wanting to share information via a website with a chosen set of people is not the same thing as wanting to share that information with everyone on the Internet (plus major search engines as well). Telling someone “well, the world has changed, get over it” is a crappy, unhelpful, and disrespectful response.

It all gets down to control over your information. If you set up a website based around the idea that you can share information with only a select group of people (and yes I am looking at you, Facebook) then don’t be surprised if people get pissed off when you change your mind and decide that catering to advertisers is more important than user privacy.

It’s why Gowalla and Foursquare are popular — because users are in control of what they share. Twitter too, for that matter. In all three cases, what’s private or public in those services is simple to understand, and the rules don’t change.

Complexity — especially when it comes to privacy — breeds distrust. Simplicity is always better.

Which, perversely, is why “if you want it private don’t put it on the Internet” makes an appealing argument to some (especially Valley geeks). It’s simple, clean, binary — everything geeks like. And most of the people who make it also operate from a position of high privilege. What I mean by “privilege” is that they are well-educated and well-connected people who do not need to worry about where their next job or paycheck is going to come from, have stable homes and personal lives, and should their privacy be breached in a serious way, they have the ability and resources to get as much assistance as they need in repairing the damage.

The world isn’t binary though. And not everyone has as much privilege in their lives that they can afford to be cavalier about their privacy.

I don’t know whether Facebook will succeed in their desire to become the one true arbiter of the Social Web (and make billions while they’re at it) or not. Short-term, they probably will do very well for themselves. Over the long haul, though, I’m not so sure. Privacy still matters.

I am still on Facebook, although I’ve locked my settings down as much as Facebook will allow, removed some information about myself, and cut back on my friends list. What happens next will depend on Facebook. Keep screwing with my sense of control and I may well join the list of people who’ve bid Facebook farewell.

Incompetence in the Air

This has got me really steamed — as the news unfolds after this latest air terrorism attempt, it turns out that the guy who is accused of trying to blow up a jet over Detroit was actually ON a US Terrorism Watch List. His own father even contacted authorities with concerns about his son’s activities — and he was still allowed onto an airplane without hassle.

Alrighty them. What exactly is the watch list there for if we don’t use it?!?

Even better, the TSA seems to think that punishing the entire traveling public with laughably stupid yet very annoying in-flight restrictions is the correct response to this massive cock-up.

The solution to this issue is not a mystery. You need to screen people better BEFORE they get on the plane. Yes, it’s hard. But it’s the right thing to do. Telling people they will be safe if they cannot use their iPod for the last hour of a flight is utterly pathetic.

It’s like the guy who, on noticing he’s lost his wallet, starts looking for it under the next streetlamp because that’s where the light is. You need to go where the real problem is, not where the easy fix is.

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This Makes Me Sad. And Angry

But frankly, not at all surprised.

In a perfect world, things wouldn’t be this way but (no surprise) we don’t live in a perfect world.

Updated (after reading the full comment thread over at Copyblogger): And to be clear I’m not at all angry at “James”. I admire her guts. I am angry that someone with talent and skills needed to become someone else in order to make a living in her chosen career. it’s a thoroughly sad commentary on how screwed up our society still is.

Barry's Righteous Rant

Over at “The Big Picture”, Barry Ritholtz has been doing terrific work reporting on the shenanigans in the markets and the economy. Today he let rip a rant that’s worth sharing. Here’s a taste:

When this era of excess and absurdity is treated by historians in the future, the question I expect to be asked most is not why many of these people weren’t jailed for their financial felonies. Rather, I expect them to wonder why so many of these folk weren’t placed in protective custody, and heavily medicated, for the only rational explanation for their statements and behaviors is that they have gone so far beyond the bend as to be completely and totally insane.