Some may feel that this is “just desserts” or that this is only the beginning but the weekend hack of a Facebook board member’s account may prove a point whether that was intended or not.
The apparent account breach was reported by peHUB, which is a Thomson Reuters property that (according to the site) is an interactive forum for the private equity community, which includes venture capitalists, buyouts professionals, attorneys, bankers, entrepreneurs, MBA candidates studying PE, and assorted hangers-on. Its mission is simple: To help you do your job better, by feeding your head with news and views from/about your peers.
Considering the intended audience it is certainly of interest when Facebook board member Jim Breyer’s account was breached.
Sunday morning, some of the 2,301 Facebook friends of venture capitalist and Facebook board member Jim Breyer received a message from him, through Facebook. “Would You Like a Facebook Phone Number?” it asked, presenting a link to “see more details and RSVP.”
While no one would be surprised by a service that allowed users to call friends from their Facebook accounts, the message was a hack. “This was a phishing scam and Jim’s account appears to have been compromised,” says Larry Yu, a Facebook spokesman, late yesterday. “The issue has since been resolved and we’re actively trying to block this activity.”
You have to wonder if Facebook’s apparent disregard for anything that was once private is going to have any significant repercussions that could take the form of more attacks like this one but on a more widespread basis. Once a company puts itself at odds with the people who use it and has a less than concerned attitude about it (maybe Facebook should be looking at Microsoft’s history of being a target because of their approach to their buying public?) things could get ugly pretty fast.
Will this event matter? Who knows. The report ended with this thought though from a big influencer regarding the whole Facebook and privacy tug-of-war.
Last week, I talked with social media analyst Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group about Facebook’s policy to have users opt out, rather than in. “There are always consumer watchdog groups that will complain, along with very vocal developers,” said Owyang. “But the vast majority of consumers don’t know and don’t care [about privacy issues] until it impacts their personal lives.”
I think the point that the vast majority of consumers don’t know about privacy issues is correct but the assumption that they don’t care (until it impacts their personal life) is not so much. Why? If the only way they are ever really informed of these issues is in a time of crisis (like a breached account) they wonder why they weren’t truly informed all along. While ignorance of a law is not a defense, ignorance of Facebook’s convoluted and constantly changing “privacy” policies is actually the norm and less people are accepting of this tactic.
What if Facebook just had a permanent tab or ‘warning label’ on every page that encouraged everyone to update their privacy settings and gave constant updates rather than burying them deep in the bowels of the service? All of these ‘issues’ would be moot points because the users would have no excuses. Of course, then Facebook would be cutting off its nose to spite its face regarding revenue.
Hmmmm, let’s see. Privacy over here, revenue over. Oooops! Looks like revenue wins again!