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BLOG: Why Social networks should be more like Facebook Poke

Mike Elgan | Dec. 31, 2012
When it comes to Facebook users and their messages, almost nobody knows who can see or share their posts on social networks. And that's a problem that must be fixed, says Mike Elgan.

The sister of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who's name is Randi Zuckerberg, posted a private photo this week of some of her family members, including brother Mark, in a kitchen goofing around with Facebook's new Poke app.

A friend of another Zuckerberg sister saw that post on her Facebook News Feed, thought it was charming and re-posted it publicly on Twitter.

Randi Zuckerberg was upset by the re-share, so she lectured the world on Twitter about "digital etiquette." She Tweeted:

"Always ask permission before posting a friend's photo publicly. It's not about privacy settings, it's about human decency."

Randi Zuckerberg is totally wrong. It's all about the settings and it has nothing to do with "decency."

The problem: Nobody knew what was happening with the communication.

Randi Zuckerberg, a former senior executive at Facebook, believed her private Facebook post was viewable only to "friends," when in fact it was visible to friends of friends.

Randi Zuckerberg's other sister didn't know that by simply friending someone on Facebook she was making her sister's personal posts visible to those friends.

And the friend who shared the post on Twitter didn't know that Randi Zuckerberg's photo was meant to be private. She thought it was public.

Even Zuckerberg family and friends don't know what's happening with their own Facebook messages.

Why? Because of the settings, of course -- not because of "decency."

This is the situation for all Facebook users and all messages. Almost nobody knows who can see or share their posts on social networks.

Instead of lecturing the world, Randi Zuckerberg should instead try lecturing her little brother, Mark. (And while she's lecturing him, she should also give him the "decency" lecture -- about copying Snapchat in the creation of Poke. It's about decency.)

Why Facebook should be more like Poke

When Randi Zuckerberg posted her photo, it should have been clear to her exactly who would gain access to the message. And if she marked it as private and viewable only by a specific group of people, Facebook should have done a better job of both locking it down to some degree and providing obvious signals that it should not be shared.

Instead of requiring every single recipient of every single post to check the light-colored fine print that shows who the sender addressed it to, private posts on social networks should be unsharable on the network and the pictures should be undownloadable, just like Flickr photos are when the user selects certain rights options.

Of course, any recipient can take a screen shot. But when a screenshot is taken of a private photo, the sender of that photo should be notified of the fact.


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