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Lessons from the failed Facebook exodus

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The 1st of June was supposed to be "Quit Facebook Day" as a protest over Facebook's privacy policies. But the 1st of June passed by and as far as I am aware, none of my friends quit facebook on Monday. It turned to be much ado about nothing...

Last month there was certainly a great deal of discussion about Facebook's Privacy policies and Mark Zuckerberg's lack of engagement with the social networking site's community about the issue, including his apparent derision through IM messages (Business Insider). Indeed, Facebook's Privacy Policy as released has more than 50 options and 170+ settings, make it longer and more complex than the US Constitution. The New York Times did a great infographic on the complexity of Facebook's Privacy Policy to illustrate.

Here's some of the highlights of the "Facebook Privacy" hullabaloo over the past few weeks:

SF Chronicle - May 6th
Facebook begs users not to Quit

There was a bunch more too. So Facebook is now close to collapse after a mega rush by millions of users to abandon their facebook accounts? Well...not exactly.

It appears that approximately 30,000 Facebook Users joined the revolt and deleted their account. To put that in perspective that's approximately 0.008% of the current Facebook population - hardly a threat to Facebook's continued existence.

So what can we learn from this?

It's Facebook - Not Internet Banking
Facebook is not exactly a mission critical cloud system for most users. It's a fun distraction, a way of keeping in touch with friends on the move, and extending your social circle. If you post a message to your girlfriend on the site and your wife see's it - then ok you are in trouble (see statistics re Facebook used as evidence in divorce cases), but generally speaking it's not that big a deal.

Facebook doesn't need heaps of security. If someone phishes your Facebook login details, about the worse thing they can do is SPAM your friends. Basically, it's just not that big a deal.

The community helps itself
Additionally, Facebook is finding that users within communities help police such intrusions themselves - warning their friends of scams, and other such issues as they arise.

It's the Internet stupid!
If you lose your job because you posted that you hate you boss, and you forgot you friended him last week - well that's just stupid. Facebook can't come up with a policy that won't guarantee you aren't stupid.

Y-Gen and Digital Natives don't care
Y-Gen and Digital Natives are more relaxed about security and privacy issues. They've grown up in a more public forum where they're just used to the fact that their profile, email, mobile phone number, dress size, and sexual orientation will appear on about a gazillion sites in the websphere and they are just not that fussed about it.

I saw a post on the UK Social Networking Site Ecademy last week entitled "Why are we letting a 26 year old decide what the Internet is?". The fact is that it is 26-year olds like Zuckerberg and even younger kids who will determine how the internet of tomorrow works. We shouldn't be fearful of such change, we should embrace it - it makes life a lot more interesting in my opinion.

Interestingly, statistics show that users of Social Media are dominantly in the 35-44 age bracket for now, but clearly the innovative thinking is coming from those who don't have hangups about traditional business approaches.

That's why we have to get used to a different level of privacy, openness and communication. Social Media is here to stay, and with it new and exciting ways to interact, do business and share content and ideas. Sometimes it will be with friends, and sometimes with people we don't know. We'll need to understand that there's privacy that matters, and then there's participation - it's a trade-off. In the end, it should pay dividends in all sorts of interesting ways.