Are Users Becoming More Disenchanted with Facebook?

Mark Zuckerberg on privacyPeople talk about Facebook like it’s too big to fail. As if there was little founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg could do or say to to implode his company because its reached close to a billion users. But just like Myspace and Friendster, it’s popularity will eventually fade. And the biggest reason they will point to is towards its policy on privacy, or should I say a lack thereof.

At the core of Facebook’s predicament is that it has separated social media and privacy. Zuckerberg recently announced that online privacy is dead. And in many ways, he believes that he is entitled to our private information. But according to Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft, the two ideas shouldn’t act as opposing forces. In fact, the two need to work together in order to blend with the rapidly changing pace of technology and transparency.

And people want their privacy. In a survey conducted by TRUSTe, it was revealed that U.S. online adults want to control what their private data while not feeling victimized by data scrapping tools and tracking-enabled devices that power those pesky targeted ads. And what’s worse? They do it, oftentimes, without our knowledge or consent. The idea here is that if you opt in to the Facebook services, that you give some of your rights to the service.

It doesn’t stop there. If we access third-party sites that employ the Facebook “Like” button (regardless of whether we click it or not) will scrape our data, further driving our online behavior through targeted advertorials. And in turn, both Facebook and these third-party sites profit from that information. Uncool.

So are people losing trust in Facebook? According to a 2012 Associated Press poll, 40 percent of the sites users said they have little or no faith in the company to protect their private information. Moreover, 51 percent of these people believe that Facebook will become a passing fad in order to make room for more privacy-centric platforms like Sgrouples, DuckDuckGo and Path. And these numbers aren’t coming from the technologically-inept crowd. On the contrary. It’s coming from the very people who help support the site and use it on a daily basis.

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We’ve already seen a drop a 4.8 percent drop in unique U.S. visitors over the past six months, according to ComScore. And countries like Australia and Great Britain have also relied less on Facebook for their social media news (3.3 percent drop in Facebook usage). The only upward trend the social media giant is seeing is with the developing world. But still, the company sees a lower monetization rate per user, which means they can’t cash in as much.

So where does that leave Facebook? It’s hard to say. While these numbers don’t pop off the page, it does suggest that Facebook fatigue is more of an issue than was previously kicked around during conversations at the work cooler. And if it does come to a crashing demise, Zuckerberg could look to his loose restrictions on his privacy policy as the company’s downfall.

But where do we go from here? There’s plenty of new social networking sites that take privacy seriously. Just don’t get caught in the crossfire when Facebook takes a tumble.

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