In just the past two weeks, Facebook and its subsidiaries have done at least three really unpopular things: 1. Spammers and other people you're not friends with can now message you for $1, and their messages will land in your "main inbox." 2. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, tried to start selling your photos to advertisers, before public pressure, thanks in no small part to this site (or not), caused the company to back off its plan. And 3. New privacy settings, designed to simplify who sees what, instead gave many people the startling revelation that their grandparents were seeing photos of the two-story beer bong that they thought were hidden, and that they were generally not nearly as private online as they would like to be. (Privacy screw-ups can happen to anyone. I work in media, see it as my job to keep up with what Facebook is doing, and I wasn't even fucking aware that friends could see which Yahoo articles I've been reading. My dad was on Facebook Sunday and asked me if I enjoyed their piece on the U.S. Olympic sprinter who became an escort.)
But, like a pussy-whipped John Lennon latched onto Yoko Ono, we're still totally dependent on the social network. We're not going to get off it en mass. We can only hope that the company starts putting more of our best interests at heart.
So it's with more than a little schadenfreude that we saw the news today that Randi Zuckerberg—Mark's sister and former marketing director at Facebook—recently got BURNED by Facebook's privacy settings.
It all started when Randi posted the above photo to her profile. It shows her family, including Mark in the back corner, checking out the new Facebook app "Poke," a SnapChat clone. Overall, it's a cute picture, an interesting look into a billionaire's home life, blah blah. (Maybe Mark accidently sent them his like button?)
Vox Media's Callie Schweitzer noticed it on her page and posted it to Twitter with the message, "@randizuckerberg demonstrates her family's response to Poke #gah." Randi was less than pleased.
Schweitzer attempted to explain to Zuckerberg that she subscribes to her updates, and that she thought it was a public photo. It wasn't. Schweitzer only saw the photo because she's friends with someone else tagged in the picture.
An honest mistake, but Randi took this as an opportunity to get on her soapbox and explain her thoughts on "privacy" and "digital etiquette."
This Tweet is, of course, really dumb, and totally incongruous with what her brother has said about his ultimate goal with Facebook—roughly, our real and digital lives becoming more and more open. Mark would like us to share everything and make everything on our pages public. So there's more than a little bit of irony in what his sister did last night.
As for the rest of us, this is a nice opportunity for a little social networking lesson: Be extra-careful about you have public. Because if the sister of Facebook's founder can be burned by its privacy settings, you need to really know what future employers and college admissions officers see. No one needs to lose a shot at a better future because of screwed-up privacy settings.