Randi Zuckerberg Learns the Hard Lesson of Facebook Privacy First-Hand

Zuckerberg Privacy

Over the Christmas holiday, Randi Zuckerberg (Mark Zuckerberg’s sister and former director of Marketing at Facebook) posted a picture of her family around the kitchen island having fun, and someone else shared the image on Twitter. This was picked up on Buzzfeed and more thoroughly explained on GigaOm amongst other places. Zuckerberg called the person out, saying that she had no idea how they got it, but that sharing the image to Twitter was ‘way uncool’.

The thing that some pointed out was that Zuckerberg had very publicly taken the stance that “Anonymity Online ‘Has To Go Away'”.

Personally I think that the issues of privacy and anonymity are totally unrelated, and what Zuckerberg ran into here is that the default privacy setting for Facebook photos is that when you share something with Friends, then all of THEIR friends get full access. So since Vox Media’s Callie Schweitzer was Facebook friends with Zuckerberg’s sister she saw the picture in her timeline, and thinking it was cool she shared it on her Twitter account.

Then Randi Zuckerberg got notified of a new @ mention on Twitter, only to see the picture she thought was private shared by someone she didn’t personally know. Confused and not pleased, she got a bit ‘snippy’ in her Twitter responses to the posting, and then after understanding the way things happened, noted “I’m just sensitive to private photos becoming “news”.”

After the initial photo and other Tweets had been deleted,¬†Zuckerberg noted:¬†Digital etiquette: always ask permission before posting a friend’s photo publicly. It’s not about privacy settings, it’s about human decency

This got pretty much divided responses:

  • Many people were highly supportive about remembering the ‘human side’ of things, that we need to keep in mind that there is a person on the other end of that Tweet or Facebook share or Tumblr Reblog or whatever.
  • Many other people were adamant that this was ALL about privacy settings and confusing issues with Facebook, to the extent that the sister of the founder and former executive was befuddled about how an image that SHE shared might end up elsewhere.

Some went as far as to question whether Zuckerberg herself had thought to ‘ask permission’ of everyone shown before sharing the image with her friends on Facebook. In my mind that is a fair question – because while she might have assumed that her photo was privately shared amongst her Friends, how does she know that the others in the picture are happy with that level of sharing – let alone with it spreading out to Friends of Friends and so on?

How do you feel about this? When you Share and Tag and Like things on Facebook, do you consider what the potential spread might be of the material? Have you ever asked permission? Where I am very sensitive is with my kids and with their friends, as well as the children of our friends … ok, so just kids in general. Aside from that concern I am generally OK with things, so if someone emails me to connect after many years saying that they saw a Facebook post about me running a marathon on a friend’s timeline (which has happened) … I am fine with that.

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2 replies

  1. Hard to believe that wasn’t a complete setup… Great post Mike. Seeing as I live with someone who is not keen on her image appearing in social media I really get the concerns and the struggles of setting boundaries and the like.

  2. OMG! This just cracked me up. I’ve never been a huge fan of facebook. I mean, I have an account and all, but I don’t post very much. I use it more to read about things going on in my friends lives. I try to be careful about what I post, and as my mom is a FB friend, never post anything that I wouldn’t want my mom, a client or boss to see! But still,,, I think they’re invasive, secretive and capable of doing great harm.

    It’s part of the reason that I don’t love the fact that most of the contests here make you “like” some product or manufacturer on FB. I really don’t want to do that, because it opens me up to more people being able to see my stuff in a way I didn’t anticipate, so I often skip that step.

    FB is just way to “Big Brother” to me. They follow you everywhere, sneak in permissions to do anything they want, change their policies randomly, and you have zero recourse to protect yourself, other than not participating.

    How many websites now will let you “sign-in” with your FB credentials? Who knows what permission you’re giving that website by doing that?

    I’m old enough to realize how I feel and to act appropriately. But, my young nieces ages 10 & 12, just got “busted” for opening FB accounts without their parents permission. THEY certainly are not old enough to understand the potential repercussions of their actions. The accounts were only open for a week before their parents found them, but how much info can be put out there by children – “tweens” who don’t necessarily know better? And, of course, FB doesn’t delete ANYTHING. So those accounts don’t go away, they just lay dormant somewhere.

    Personally, I can’t quite imagine how life will be for them when they are my age. The world of electronics and gadgets and online access as well as social media has grown exponentially in the last 20 years. What will the next 30 bring for them?

    When we were kids, the biggest threat in our lives was that if we did something bad, it would go on our “permanent record” and we quaked in fear at the thought, even though we found out later that there really wasn’t any such thing. No one remembered or cared that we got in a fight in 5th grade, or got suspended in high school for doing something stupid. That “permanent record” ended with school.

    But now, that “permanent record” really DOES exist, and lives in caches and on servers to be recalled with search spiders and data storage devices. There are no “do-overs” in the digital age, and that scares the crap out of me! I know I’m glad that I’m never going to be held responsible for the things I said as a teenager, or as a young adult.

    And, the fact that even Mark Zuckerberg’s sister can’t master Facebook privacy settings just underlines the point of just how ridiculous they are!