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Inspired by a post by Mailchimp titled SPAM: It’s Not Just For Email Anymore I’ve decided to branch out of our normal email niche for the Problems with Permission series, and take a look at something that happened in the news last week.

Last week Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, published a letter to the world laying out their commitment to privacy. In it he lists Facebook’s principles, the first one being:

  • You have control over how your information is shared.

If this is what Facebook thrives for, why do so many users feel as if they are NOT in control of their own information?

Facebook has created extensive privacy settings (as we previously discussed) that enable you to customize exactly who you want looking at your information. However, Facebook has a long history of both not letting people know what is being shared and changing sharing settings without telling users. Even for tech savvy users, knowing that information is now being shared with advertisers, or even with other users, can be difficult without digging into Facebook’s privacy settings and looking for changes.

This is why people are disenfranchised with Facebook: despite it’s efforts to increase the richness of users privacy settings, they have been making decisions about the information of their users without obtaining permission. Of course, Facebook would argue that they have permission, that by signing up you gave them permission, but the problem is that the permission given is never explicitly stated. Instead Facebook takes action on its own, then provides an opt-out if you don’t like it. They have been increasing user options, but decreasing user control. Thus, Facebook’s users feel disenfranchised because even though they can change their settings, Facebook is in the drivers seat, and has shown that they are the ones making decisions, not their users.

And Facebook isn’t alone. It is common practice – as we’ve shown in past Problems With Permission segments – for companies to behave as if user control doesn’t matter. They use opt-out’s, they make it hard for users to change their settings, and they bombard users with messages that the users don’t want.

In email we call it spam, but what it really is is treating your users as if you’re in control – and in email as in Facebook, users are quite clearly saying that they’ve had enough.