Geez! Now email, too? Do we really want Facebook to know even more about us?

Geez! Now email, too? Do we really want Facebook to know even more about us?

Summary: No one is forcing us to move our email over to Facebook and this whole issue may be more fuss than substance.

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I have not made it a secret that I'm not a fan of the Facebook service. Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm quite impressed by Mark Zuckerberg, and what he and his team have been able to accomplish in a few short years.

I just dislike the actual existence of Facebook.

I dislike the added social overhead that comes from telling an aunt that, "No, I'm not going to friend you because you'll stalk all my business friends." I don't like telling a long-time, politically conservative gaming buddy that I have to drop him from my friends list because he crawled down the throat of one of my more liberal friends.

I like to keep my constituencies separated, but Facebook likes to mash them all together so they have a better chance of constructing (and selling) my social graph.

Into this world of social clusterfraks comes the new idea of Facebook mail and messaging. Zuckerberg announced yesterday that he essentially wants to use your social graph as another vector for spam management.

This, on its own, is a pretty smart idea which could reduce inbox crap -- unless most of the inbox crap you get happens to be from a family member who still insists on sending you a joke every hour on the hour.

You may not remember (because we seem to have very short memories here in Internet time), but back when Google was getting ready to launch Gmail, everyone was worried that they'd be reading our mail in order to display context-sensitive ads.

It seems so quaint.

Of course, Gmail has become a juggernaut in the email world, comprising about about 15% of all Internet email traffic. Yahoo mail and Hotmail (okay, Windows Live Mail) together comprise another 75%.

Most people who use Gmail or Hotmail or Yahoo mail don't care about the ads. They just want email.

Likewise, most people quite obviously don't care too much about their privacy, or we wouldn't be seeing so many status updates about so many inappropriately personal things.

But Facebook is different from all the other services in one important factor: identity. Facebook has managed to create an enormous user base of people who are absolutely not anonymous. Their pictures are online and their real names are essentially verified by their friends lists.

This means that email that flows through Facebook can be connected with real people, rather than just logins or user ids. This could be quite powerful in all sorts of areas, from simple targeted marketing to law enforcement.

Of course, no one is forcing us to move our email over to Facebook and this whole issue may be more fuss than substance.

Why?

Here's the paradox of Facebook offering some sort of mail service. To Facebook's primary audience, email is an anachronism. I like email and I dislike Facebook. I'm a fogey. I like the telephone and I dislike texting. I'm an old fart.

Fogeys and old farts are the ones who still use a lot of email. Teeny-boppers don't. So while Facebook may be offering a new email-like service, their core audience is most probably going to respond with a typical, "Whatever."

Topics: Social Enterprise, Browser, Collaboration

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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14 comments
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  • Really?

    Quote: <i>"I dislike the added social overhead that comes from telling an aunt that, ?No, I?m not going to friend you because you?ll stalk all my business friends.? I don?t like telling a long-time, politically conservative gaming buddy that I have to drop him from my friends list because he crawled down the throat of one of my more liberal friends."</i>

    I have friends who are conservative and liberal, and I consider myself to be more in the liberal category. But I do often depart from even the liberals in Washington on various issues, because I think both parties are wrong.

    I get into debates with a very conservative preacher friend of mine all the time, we disagree a bunch, but at the same time we have agreed that we need to conduct ourselves in such a way that doesn't alienate each other. Things do get passionate sometimes, but I make sure that we don't go into bashing each other.

    I remember one thing all the time. Debate the policy, not the man proposing it. I have lost a few conservative friends over time, whether it was something that they disagreed with, or something else, I will likely never know, but that is their problem not mine. But the one's who disappear are usually the ones who never added to the conversation. Of course, I have had others come in with a bash, and I then tell them their over the line, and that again to debate the policy not the person. I don't care if you think the President is a Muslim, or that Glen Beck and Sarah Palin are loony and scary, keep the debate on a policy, and stick to reasonable facts, and not interject fear and false arguments into the debate.

    And being that the one is a preacher friend, we even get into comparabilities religion arguments as well. The fun one's are when he tells me that Muslims are told to hurt people, and then I call him on the carpet to point to the passage in Qu'ran, the specific Surah, and he never does. I keep telling him, I have a copy, I would be more than happy to look it up, and if he is right I would concede or respond... Still waiting though.

    I am not friends with just people who will validate my position, I am also friends with people who challenge my position, as it lets me find weaknesses in my arguments, and allows me to be challenged. If you make up your friends just to validate your own positions, then you live in a bubble, and it makes you ignorant of others, and in a global economy, that is something you cannot be.

    As for your Aunt that stalks your business contacts, let me ask, do you not have enough sense to keep your Business life and Personal life separate? I maintain Facebook for friends, and LinkedIn for Business and Networking. An Employer or a Potential employer has no need to know what goes on between me and my friends, or what I do for hobbies, or what my political views are. Or that my Aunt had a stinky BM.
    Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
    • RE: Geez! Now email, too? Do we really want Facebook to know even more about us?

      @Snooki_smoosh_smoosh: It is great that you have an active political view and that you are engaged in meaningful political discussions, I think this is great - and I think our current scenario asks for more politically-aware folks like yourself. In any case, I think it is a bit off-topic here.

      David Gewirtz has an interesting point about the new Facebook email offer. I tend to agree with him, I personally have mixed feelings about the value provided by the Facebook service so I would prefer to keep my emails separated from my Facebook in a similar way that you suggest to keep LinkedIn for business and Facebook for personal.

      Why do I have mixed feelings? Well, at first I thought that Facebook was quite interesting and I could keep up with my friends and family altogether. To me, it didn't scale well and some business associates ended up in there, along with distant family and friends... as David has pointed out, it is an unnecessary social overhead to keep things in place, I may have failed here. But there is another point: I don't think it is very productive, I see hundreds of posts, thousands of 'like it' and very few meaningful discussions, the FB posts seems so uninteresting to me.

      I'm getting to the conclusion that I prefer to follow meaningful blog/forum conversations about interesting topics (like politics) than the posts on my FB wall... Maybe I am social-inept.
      zthing
    • RE: Geez! Now email, too? Do we really want Facebook to know even more about us?

      @Snooki_smoosh_smoosh Oh wow your gaming buddy sounds like a whole demographic.
      Asher Bond
  • Facebook is the exact opposite of compartmentalization.

    There are some things in life that you want to keep separate to respect confidence and other peoples privacy, as well as your own. The folks that love facebook put all their files in a folder or all over. The older bastages like me like to put their files in folders named after the subject they are pertinent to.

    The Facebook folks are slobs and older folks are a bit Teutonic in habits that border on OCD. To much organization is bad also. This Facebook is worse than Google when it comes to privacy, for now there is a jpeg to tie it in even better. I don't even log in under my true identity because of this. Now I have to go to an alias email account to clear out all the update status of what my friends do. I think I will block facebook from this account.
    osreinstall
  • RE: Geez! Now email, too? Do we really want Facebook to know even more about us?

    I don't like how Facebook locks you into using their Inbox, but takes the liberty to notify you that you need to log into another box. I like to think outside the box and have all my correspondence routed to somewhere I can manage it in a central fashion. I've been involved with Gmail as an early adopter, feature idea spammer, and of course power user. I'm not afraid of Google reading my email. I'm afraid of social networks and matchmaking sites that try to lock me into their world and own all of my correspondence. I'd like to join a network that's a little more free and open. I have also joined Diaspora, by the way.

    - Asher Bond
    Software Designer, Service Oriented Architect, Elastic Provisioner
    http://JoinDiaspora.com
    Asher Bond
    • and you think google doesn't own your gmail, how misled are you?

      @Asher Bond surely your joking. not afraid of google? they not only read your email, they own it and sell it.
      at least with facebook we all know its all shared. people don't realise the extent that google have a hold on them. and the lengths that google will go so they have something to sell their advertisers. google are in the marketing business and they are selling your info. be afraid, be very afraid.
      techguru@...
      • RE: Geez! Now email, too? Do we really want Facebook to know even more about us?

        @techguru@... Be afraid of what, specifically?
        twaynesdomain-22354355019875063839220739305988
  • RE: Geez! Now email, too? Do we really want Facebook to know even more about us?

    FB seems to be taking advantage of the Younger generations concept of 'no boundaries'. I quit FB a year ago because I felt it was and would eventually become increasingly invasive. When I spoke to my teen and his buddies, they said..."Who Cares? I have nothing to hide..." Ya, at 15 nothing to hide. Plus no understanding of separation of private/public info. This new group has GROWN UP with technology...they just don't care. Otherwise FB and Gmail would have shut down long ago.
    reslyn
  • Guess that makes me..

    A fogey and an old fart as well. Pretty good company, no?
    michlinand51
  • RE: Geez! Now email, too? Do we really want Facebook to know even more about us?

    Im an old foggy....technology wise. I have teenagers who are not. Lucky me-because they showed me this neat little feature on Facebook, where you can block your status's and comments from anyone on your friends list, without doing the dreaded "delete" from friends, which is socially awkward as the offended party will let you know.
    For example-my dear friends with a 7 year old son made him a facebook page. I disagreed with that. They "friend requested me". Not wanting to hurt my 7 year old "nephews" feelings as to why "auntie" wouldn't add him-I simply blocked his ability to see what I status/post. I don't want to have to censure myself-after all, Facebook is my platform to share my life, correct?
    So, there are remedies to some of the objections of Facebook besides drastic measures of deleting people and or disabling your account. Notice I said "disable." you cannot DELETE your Facebook account. I call it my "online fingerprint" as a result....now, there's a disturbing segway.....
    risata206
  • RE: Geez! Now email, too? Do we really want Facebook to know even more about us?

    Setup facebook Email http://goo.gl/28YJs
    mohangbits@...
  • Remember when email and &quot;the web&quot; were separate?

    Does google read my gmail to serve me targeted ads? I have no idea; I've never seen an ad when accessing my gmail account.<br><br>But then again, I use IMAP instead of the web interface.
    JDThompson
    • yes google do get data from your mail to sell.

      @JDThompson yes mate they do, and that is the problem even though it is in their terms of use, who reads them? the majority of people think google are an innocent little search engin, when in reality they are a massive marketting machine collecting data about users and selling to advertisers.
      Plus they record each and every search that comes from your browser
      techguru@...
  • RE: Geez! Now email, too? Do we really want Facebook to know even more about us?

    I already have a secure email address and don't see the point of switching to something as unsafe as Facebook. Facebook, Facebook Mail and all of its privacy concerns do not seem appealing to me at all. In fact, I am waiting for a safer social networking platform such as MyCube or Diaspora to launch so that I can be assured that my content and information is private and secure.
    vishal_bhardhwaj