Facebook or Disgracebook? The Social Networking Sight Settles Privacy Dispute

You can not deny the power of social media. However, ironically, Facebook is one of the top ten most hated companies (zdnet). Clearly it is a love/hate relationship that exists because the numbers aren’t going down, but the grumbles are undoubtedly going up. Most of the frustrations coming from consumers had to do with the privacy issues surrounding the site. Today, Facebook finally settled their privacy dispute with the FTC as discussed in this article. However, for many consumers the damage first began with charges that the company rolled out upgrades that overrode users’ privacy settings without obtaining their consent and shared their private information with third-party apps and advertisers. I know, I know, you’re going to try and convince me that nothing is private anymore, but the fact of the matter is, consumers felt they had autonomy over their social network settings. As Organizational Behavioral theories would argue, consumers felt they had perceived control.

The allegations were incredibly serious and had the potential to be detrimental the sight (as made evident by the sight’s approval rating). “The complaint also contends that Facebook made personal information available to advertisers in instances between September 2008 and May 2010, alleging that advertisers could access identifying details about users who clicked on their ads, along with other facts, like their browsing history” (zdnet). My advice to Facebook?  Steer clear of what I would like to call the Lindsay Lohan Effect. You are not the exception. Ms. Lohan has believed she is above the law, untouchable if you will, and while the laws of social media may be a victim of an intense cultural lag, the principles are the same. Facebook is not a monopoly and as much power as the currently hold, they too are susceptible to a younger, prettier, more talented actress (in the case of Lindsey Lo) or a younger, prettier,  “safer” social media site. If the risk is not worth the reward, we will revolt.

Currently, it looks like what some would call Disgracebook will go back to being the ever-successful Facebook that we all know and love, but let’s hope that the site learned an important lesson here. They may have dodged a bullet for now, but live, learn, and then get private. For now, the resolution is as stands: “To consumers, be assured that Facebook should seek your consent before overriding your privacy settings,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. Facebook is subject to a $16,000 fine per violation per day if it fails to comply with the terms of the order. In addition to obtaining users’ explicit consent before making changes that override their existing privacy settings Facebook must institute a privacy program that’s required to be audited by a third-party company every two years for 20 years.”

What’s the lesson? Shape up or ship out. Even though you are currently king does not mean you will have the thrown forever. What do you think? “Faze”book or Facebook?



Starbucks: “Significant Investment, Significant Return”

Starbucks, the number one consumer brand on Facebook, understands, “Traditional marketing is changing dramatically. You can’t push people. You have to engage them in a conversation and they have to trust the source”-Howard Schultz, CEO and Chairman.

The New York Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/19/business/media/19starbux.html shows how the company directly applied social networking and digital media to their marketing strategies. Starbucks recently unveiled new advertising posters and invitied its consumers to search for the posters. A competitive twist was incorporated by being the first to post a photo of one of the advertisements on Twitter.

With the economic downturn, those who frequent the coffee chain are having a hard time rationalizing a five dollar white mocha each morning. Especially when McDonalds offers coffee at a fraction of the price. After all, coffee is coffee, right? Wrong, according to Starbucks. It should not come as a shock to us students of Human Behavior, Starbucks doesn’t only sell coffee, they sell a third-place environment; not home, not work, but Starbucks. The article, however, is quick to emphasize the quality of the brand. “The full-page newspaper ads goes to some length to describe how Starbucks selects only the best 3 percent of beans and roasts them until they pop twice, and gives its part-time workers health insurance.”

What is really quite genius about the brand is how they studied the embedded habits of social media users and were able to integrate their marketing campaign around behaviors that were already occurring, not the other way around. “The idea for the Starbucks photo contest came from watching what people already do on Facebookand Twitter.” The  brand was able to capitalize on behaviors that their customers were already participating in.

“It’s the difference between launching with many millions of dollars versus millions of fans.”

True, Starbucks probably spent quite a chunk of change on the new poster advertisement, (the wouldn’t reveal the exact cost) but that wasn’t their most significant breakthrough. Instead, it was what it translated to, a conversation online. While McDonalds spent 100 million dollars are their marketing campaign against Starbucks and other top competitors, Starbucks realized their strongest campaign was to join the one that was already alive and well within social media. How can your brand join the conversation?

Right to Publicity?


In this day in age, I feel as though I ask how far is too far on a day-to-day basis. It is often arduous to differentiate between personal and public. High school reunions are being cancelled because not only are people able to stay in contact with whomever they would like, but they can also know exactly what their childhood friends had for breakfast that morning via Facebook status updates. Undoubtedly, times are changing, but so too are our boundary lines.

Recently, Facebook changed their privacy settings. One company, more than 750 active users, and an immense amount of vulnerability. The company had automatically set each profile on a non-secure setting.  As the article highlights, this left millions of users susceptible to being hacked. Facebook also has the phone numbers of everyone in your contact list uploaded to your account. I understand that both circumstances are perhaps shocking, but each and every one of those 750 million users (myself included) checked a box that confirmed that we had read and understood the terms of use when we initially set up our accounts. We cannot yell foul when we already allowed interference.

LinkenIn used its members’ photos and information for their campaigns. “It’s indicative of the huge lure these free networks must experience when it comes to advertising dollars.” As much as this frustrates me, it does not surprise me. This “evasion” of privacy is a consequence of social media. Every picture you ever post on Facebook (even after you have deleted it) is property of the company. Think about that. Now think about that party you went to.

Would George W. Bush or Obama ever have been elected if Facebook would have been around during their college years? Can you imagine how much money a future running mate would be willing to spend to get his/her hands on the opponents’ photos? Our world has changed forever and we can argue about our rights, which inevitably we do still have, or we can protect ourselves by projecting the image we want people to see.

Would you hire you?