Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Are Facebook's "Social Plugins" making the service less popular with older users?

It would seem that users age 35 and older are concerned that their personal data is being carelessly handled:

Amid backlash, Facebook tries to save face
[...] Social plug-ins were one of Facebook's big announcements at F8, the developer conference that the social network held last month.

They take its existing Facebook Connect product a few steps further by bringing users' Facebook friends lists to external sites and showing them their friends' activity. A news site, for example, could show which stories your Facebook contacts have been recommending and commenting on. is one of several dozen sites that partner with Facebook to display and share users' interests.

Facebook says the Amazon-owned Internet Movie Database has seen referral traffic from Facebook double after it started putting Facebook "like" buttons on individual pages in its entertainment directory so that members can easily share their favorite movies and TV shows on their profiles; more than 350,000 "likes" have been pushed to Facebook through IMDB.

For news sites, Facebook reports that its referral traffic has increased 290 percent for the Washington Post and 250 percent for ABC News.

"We think the story behind these stats is more important than the stats themselves. As we've found on Facebook, people share, read, and generally engage more with any type of content when it's surfaced through friends and people they know and trust," the post by Facebook developer representative Justin Osofsky read.

"We're bringing activities that have been social in the offline world, such as sharing news, reviews, and sports enthusiasm, and giving sites a way for their users to experience their content with friends."

Unfortunately, though these numbers are a bright spot for potential partners, they don't do much for irritated users who say that Facebook is more or less toying with their personal information.

And the bad press, too, continues to roll in. Earlier on Tuesday, news broke that there was asecurity hole in Yelp -- one of the test partners in Facebook's "Instant Personalization" program -- that put Facebook user data at risk.

The "Instant Personalization" program takes Facebook's social plug-ins even further by automatically importing Facebook profile information to third-party partners. Yelp says it's fixed the hole.

This adds to two Facebook-related security holes that surfaced last week, in which there were likely no malicious intentions but which didn't help already-concerned Facebook users from wondering just how safe their data is on a site that repeatedly modifies its privacy policies and has had a well-documented recent history of security flaws and phishing scams.

And one polling firm, YouGov, says that Facebook may want to start getting concerned about its brand image -- at least where adults are concerned.

The firm's BrandIndex service surveyed two slices of the U.S. population, adults 18 to 34 and those over 35, to discover if their perception of the Facebook brand has grown more positive or negative over the past few weeks and rating the results on a scale of -100 to 100. While Facebook's stock appears to be rising in the younger demographic, climbing from 32.8 to 44.8 since March 24, in the older one it's slid from 26.7 to 21.2. [...]

This is a good example of why I haven't jumped onto the social networking bandwagon. It's all too new, and there are still many unforeseen consequences. I'd rather not be the guinea pig. I'll wait and see what happens to other people first.

Also see:

Social Media Dangers in our Brave New World
A look at the creepy ways your social networking data can be used.

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