So Facebook has finally admitted that spying on its users as they travel the web--and then reporting back to all their friends--was not perhaps the best move they could have made. Of course, it's not the first time Facebook has made a decision that flies in the face of what its users want. The last time however, the introduction of the site's now-popular news feed and mini-feed, at least it seemed the company was trying to introduce something useful to is users. With Beacon, their "you rented Ice Castles on DVD and I'm telling everyone" application, users only factored into the equation as something to exploit, not something to help.
That's the problem with the kind of fantasy money that's being bandied about with Facebook--when you're supposedly worth $15 billion, the pressure is on to prove you can earn the title (if not the money). As a result, you've got to try and wring every last cent out of your users. The problem is that on a social networking site like Facebook, your users are all you've got. If you start treating them as little more than grist for the money mill, are they really going to keep coming back?
It's something to remember as every publication and media company tries to incorporate some aspect of social networking into their websites: are you doing this for the users, or are you doing this for you?
Let's give the last word to Fake Steve Jobs:
Thing is, nobody ever doubted that Facebook can do better. What's scary is the fact that they won't do better until people start to scream at them. It's the fact that it doesn't really seem to be in their nature to do the right thing. Their instinct, in fact, seems to be to do the wrong thing, and to keep doing it until they get caught. Even after they get caught, their instinct is to spin and fudge and brazen it out. No wonder the Borg has partnered with them. It's a match made in heaven. These guys are like Google, only their slogan isn't "Don't be evil" -- it's "Don't get caught."
Either that or they truly are a bunch of spoiled and scarily fucking clueless kids who honestly have no idea why people are upset about this, because they truly have no moral compass and they view this whole thing as just another pain in the ass hurdle to get over on the way to becoming rich. In which case, yeah, I'm, like, rilly rilly super glad that they're, like, gathering information on me?