Can you protect the data in your Facebook profile by posting a “privacy notice” on your page?  You may have already seen several people do it.  You may have done it yourself.  The short answer, however, is ‘no.’   It’s a bit of a hoax. But I have a different question – SHOULD we have that kind of privacy on Facebook?  You might think this is weird – but I’m going to argue ‘no.’  Let me explain:

The 'privacy notice' going around Facebook

You may have already seen this so-called “privacy notice” (see left).  It sounds pretty official, and it definitely has that “legal-ese” feel to it.  But first things first – it doesn’t mean anything.  Whether it’s fair or not, when you signed up for a Facebook, you voluntarily agreed to Facebook’s terms of service.  In other words, you can’t just post an official sounding “notice” that will undo the contract you signed with Facebook.  It’s just doesn’t work that way.

But let me first back up and say this:  I don’t believe that everything we do on the web should be monitored and collected and used to sell us things.  I don’t think that information should be used to draw conclusions about who we are or what we think or what we believe.  I think we should expect (and demand) a certain degree of privacy while on the Internet.

But we’re talking about Facebook here, and I don’t think some of those ideas apply to social media.  Frankly, it’s kind of baffling to me that people are upset about it.  And here’s why:


1. Facebook is the very definition of ‘public.’

What would be the point of this? (Facebook)

The whole point of Facebook is to share things with other people. Joining Facebook is, to me, exactly the same as buying a billboard on the Interstate.  Why did you buy a billboard?  Why does anyone ever buy a billboard?  Because you want to put things up there for people to see.  Buying a billboard and then complaining that everyone can see what you put up there makes no sense.  No sense!  If you don’t want people playing with your information, you should keep it to yourself, right?

To me, the people complaining about Facebook privacy are like people who want to buy a giant, invisible billboard that they can sausage-stuff with all the secret information they like.  But what’s the point of an invisible billboard?

To put it another way – it’s like paying for a safe deposit box at the bank, putting all your valuables in it, locking it tight, and then refusing to put it in the bank vault.  Instead, you put it on the counter at a convenience store and walk away, all the while expecting everything inside to be there when you get back.

2. You’re not paying anything to use it.

Getty Images

You see, my billboard and safe deposit box analogies don’t actually work, because in my analogies, you PAID for those services.  You paid the billboard company and you paid the bank.  But you don’t pay for Facebook.  It’s free (and is supposed to stay free forever, according to Mr. Zuckerberg).

The fact that Facebook has no cost shouldn’t mean that its officials should feel free to plunder its members’ information – but it does mean that you don’t get much of a say in things.  It costs money to run Facebook, and if you want to be on its bandwagon, I’m sorry to tell you that you’re going to have to give something up.  Them’s the breaks, baby.  There is no such thing as ‘free,’ really.  There’s always some cost.  Maybe it’s not necessarily fair, but then again, you’re not really supporting Facebook, are you?  The moment you pay one red cent for Facebook, then I’ll agree with you – you have the right to tell Facebook to get out of your business.

This is a harsh-sounding argument, I know.  But anyone using Facebook (ages 13 and over) should be old enough to know better by now.  The world has never worked that way, and it’s kind of silly for you to get upset when it doesn’t.

And it doesn’t really matter anyway, because…

3. No one’s forcing you to do anything.

Guess what happens if you deny his Farmville request. (iStockphoto)

We, as a culture, are a bunch of over-sharers.  Did you really need to tell the world you ate a tuna sandwich today?  Does anyone except your doctor or your fitness trainer care what your diet consists of?   No, so you can stop that now.

But, it should be noted that YOU decided to share that interesting tidbit with us.  There are no guns to your head.  Unless I’m seriously wrong, no one has ever said, “Hey, kid, you’d better confess your lunch or I will shoot this puppy.”

At the end of the day, the information, pictures, status updates and videos you share are the ones you CHOSE to share.  If you want to be protected, keep it to your damn self.  If you don’t want people to be up in your relationship business, don’t put it in your profile.  If you don’t want to be marketed to, don’t tell Mr. Zuckerberg about your business.  If you don’t want your pictures used in a Facebook ad, don’t put sensitive pictures on Facebook.  It’s okay to not share your bowel movements with America.  Get over yourself a little bit, okay?  People aren’t as interested in you as you think they are.  And even if they are, you’re the one in control of what you give to them.

And if things are really that bad, if you really just cannot live with Mr. Zuckerberg’s plans for your private information, you don’t have to have a Facebook.  Jesus never had a Facebook, and people loved that guy.  You can quit.  You can walk away.  YOU are in charge here.  So take some responsibility and act like it, okay?