Many blogs, including this one, integrate Facebook into their site in one of many ways. From buttons that allow you to share stories via the service, the ability to use Facebook login to post comments or even dedicated pages for the blog. Facebook offers many ways to build their product into your blog and many bloggers have snapped it up.
However, privacy concerns over Facebook are now becoming legion. The EFF has reported on the slow shift away to a more public Facebook and this chart illustrates how much the default settings have eroded privacy. Industry leaders, including Jason Calacanis have weighed in on the issue with less-than-kind words and IMs that recently surfaced from Facebook’s early days have only eroded the respect more.
Though people don’t seem to be abandoning their Facebook accounts in droves now, there clearly is a growing distrust of the company and that makes the once-safe notion of putting Facebook integration into your site seem much more dangerous.
So, should bloggers begin backing away from Facebook? The answer isn’t easy.
My Bad Reputation
One of the bigger criticisms Facebook has faced recently has been how its new Open Graph system shares details with third party partners and sites. However, your average blogger doesn’t have anywhere near the pull to receive that information and it not a partner in that regard.
Despite that, when many see the Facebook logo, they now immediately connect it with privacy issues and, with all the confusion surrounding privacy and Facebook, a problem Facebook doesn’t exactly help, at least some likely assume that every site with a Facebook logo is in on it.
There is open hostility to Facebook integration in many corners of the Web, including Reddit, and with the privacy fallout that backlash is growing.
People are still using Facebook but they clearly don’t feel as good about it and that, in turn, is the problem with Facebook integration, it may be where the audience is but it doesn’t seem to be where they want to be.
Just Not Cool
The bigger problem with partnering with Facebook in any capacity. Facebook’s reputation has been badly marred, the worst since the Beacon incident in 2007 and this may be more damaging in many regards due to the past oversteps.
Right now, Facebook just isn’t “cool” anymore. It’s not that any one person has criticized it, thousands have already, but it’s that users are growing weary of the privacy issues and, increasingly, are only staying because they feel they have to. Facebook’s entrenched position atop the social networking pyramid keeps it from being the source of a mass defection, at least for now, but it doesn’t mean people are happy with it.
Where once it was trendy or even forward-thinking to integrate with Facebook, now it is dangerous. Though this moment may pass and Facebook can come out on the other side on top, as it has with similar privacy spats, now would definitely be a risky time to start a new integration.
The reason is that, when you integrate a service into your site, you’re essentially partnering with them and, who you team up with says a lot about you in other’s eyes. A good partner can help your reputation, a bad one can hurt it.
Facebook, right now, is treading the line into becoming a very bad partner indeed.
Time to Bail?
The big question though is if it is time yet to strip off the Facebook buttons and undo the integrations. My personal answer is: Not yet.
It seems like a bit of an extreme step to remove existing integrations just because of the current spat. On the flip side though, I wouldn’t be setting up any new Facebook pages or logins either. Doing so while things are tense might give the appearance of not caring about privacy and flagrantly disregarding the concerns of many readers.
Anything beyond a Facebook button as part of the usual spate of social networking links is probably a project to be done later., when and if Facebook rectifies the situation and the Web moves on.
As for existing setups, I would argue what happens next should be the big determiner. If Facebook starts to work to rebuild trust or at the very least set up a solid policy for privacy, then it can be ridden out. Otherwise, bloggers need to start seriously weighing the costs and the benefits of having Facebook on their site and make sure that it is really worth it.
Whenever you partner with another company or site, you need to constantly evaluate that relationship and make sure that it is beneficial to you and your work. If it’s not, it’s best to cut it if you can.
Facebook is no different. We, as bloggers with our own sites, have no obligation to integrate Facebook into our pages or link to them. If Facebook becomes a liability, we can, and should, get rid of it.
Doing otherwise not only is a disservice to our readers, but to ourselves as well. That is not something we can afford to do.