Has Facebook Gone Too Far?

It’s a good time to be Facebook.  Not only is the company’s homepage the most visited Web site in the United States, but many [exciting] new developments were announced during the company’s f8 conference a few weeks back. As with any change Facebook makes, there are a number of users that are outraged by the changes and question what the implications of these changes will be on their privacy. 

Let’s take a look at some of the new modifications the company is rolling out:

• Instant Personalization: Anyone that has logged onto Yelp, Pandora or CNN recently—the three “preferred partners” of Facebook— will have noticed that their profiles sync up to the site. For instance, when using Pandora, you can opt to have music played from your favorite bands listed on your Facebook profile.  By doing this, your settings across third party sites are further customized based on your interests listed on Facebook. 

• Facebook Connect Platform: The Facebook Connect Platform has been replaced by a new set of social plugins, which will allow the site to expand its presence across third party sites. Users can choose to click a “like” button on a Web site, and this information is then fed back into the user’s Facebook page, in addition to linking back to the “liked” site. 

• New Virtual Currency: The new Facebook currency, “Credits” will allow people to buy virtual currency that can be spent on applications across the site. The applications this will have the most obvious effect on will be the social games market on Facebook. For now, “Credits” is still in beta, however, according the article, “How Facebook plans to fuel the app economy with Facebook Credits,” on VentureBeat, the company hopes to increase the percentage of users willing to purchase virtual goods to between 8% and 20%.

According to a Facebook representative, “these features build on the same benefits that brands have experienced with other Facebook integrations. As sites offer people more relevant and personalized experiences on the Web, brands can benefit from richer engagement with their fans." For more information, visit ClickZ article, "Facebook Pushes 'Like' Button to Many Sites."

Now, I’m a fan of the new settings, though I can understand why users would be apprehensive of how much new personal information will be pushed across the Web. As always, Facebook allows users to opt out of these instant personalization settings, and for instructions on how to do this users can read this article in the New York Times
 
I’m most interested in seeing how the “preferred partner” program will expand to include other types of services, and which companies will benefit (or suffer) from this alliance the most.  What implications will this relationship have on companies that choose not to join Facebook’s partner network? At what point will users think the company has gone to far to personalize the Facebook experience?  It will be interesting to see how many people will choose to opt out of these new settings.
 
Will you be one of them?

- Contributed by Chantal LeBoulch. Follow her @cleboulch