Your Voice–Your Vote?

Facebook is updating its privacy policy and its users can vote which policy version they actually want to have. Considering the torrent of criticism about Facebook’s general approach to privacy, that sounds like a good idea. Except it is not. It presents itself as a democratic procedure but is far away from the standards of an actual referendum. A chance to enhance the self-regulation process has been wasted. Who should get to decide how long Facebook should keep personal data or how they should deploy targeted advertising? The future of privacy will be decided by little tweaks in the phrasing of regulation terminology and users are […]

Network Effects–We Missed the Inframarginals

When discussing the internet, the economic concept that seems to have made the largest dispersion into popular discourse is the concept of ‘network effects’. “Facebook  is unconquerable because of positive network externalities.” “Product X must reach the tipping point so that network effects can take over,” etc. This sub-field is often treated as if it is more-or-less mature (and it may well be), but there is a serious theoretical ambiguity within the economic literature about exactly what a network effect is based upon. The original incarnation of the term deals with a good whose value increases as the number of […]

Losing a Grip on Your Facebook Account? You’re Not the Only One

Having a Facebook page is becoming more and more of a liability. Surely we’ve heard it all before, though. Journalists, authors, bloggers, and even occasionally incredulous Masters’ students love talking about the potential negative Facebook effects, from loss of self-esteem to increased anxiety or jealousy. But there’s a much more tangible one: you can be expelled or not hired based on what is posted on your Facebook wall. This is hardly a newsflash depending on how jaded you are about invasions of privacy, but the situation has gotten worse. In 2009, the University of Oxford’s student population discovered that their […]

Facebook’s IPO–Outsourcing the push to shrink privacy

Facebook has been accused of shrinking the public’s “right to be let alone.” Soon they will be able to call on shareholders to demand that the government leave Facebook alone. If you’re a privacy advocate, this is worrying. Facebook’s IPO will increase the number of voices shouting on their side when regulators eventually threaten their pursuit of profit. Goldman may have a large stake right now, but if Goldman, Morgan Stanley, and shareholders-like-you own a piece of the pie, the desire to increase the size of the pie is spread more broadly. Facebook is our case study, but their situation […]