In his op-ed today, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg promised further changes to give users better control of privacy settings. It’s a clear signal that Facebook is seeking to meet user privacy preferences while still attracting enough ad revenue to keep the site free for everyone. But will these signals even be heard above all the noise made by Facebook’s critics?
That’s the question posed by my colleague Steve DelBianco at the NetChoice blog:
Radio engineers speak in terms of signal-to-noise ratio when they want to measure usable signals against a background of useless static. There’s been a lot of noise over Facebook recently, driven by a feeding frenzy of technology bloggers and journalists. Their hyperbole hit a high note when some equated Facebook’s privacy drill to BP’s giant oil spill, while others wrote articles (or op-eds? It’s so hard to tell sometimes) that insult Facebook employees and impugn their motives. Just when you think nothing could rival the noise of Washington’s echo chamber, the technology pundits show us how a real shout-down is supposed to work.
Steve hits hard against the pile-on “feeding frenzy” on Facebook, going so far as to call critics “Chicken Little.” Strong, but also accurate.
While we all support the process of vocal user feedback to improve a product/service, with Facebook there’s more going on. Even Senators with a love for the limelight have jumped on the bandwagon by telling Facebook how to manage a service it gives us for free. Of course, management by Congress is the fastest way to suck innovation and competitiveness out of one of America’s fastest growing industries.
To the extent that productive criticism turns into deafening noise, Facebook’s positive signals will be unfairly distorted.