Facebook needs an Ombudsman

by Karl Sakas on April 30, 2010

As everyone’s saying, Facebook isn’t too concerned about putting its users first. In just a few weeks, this has led to Congressional investigations (grandstanding for a purpose) and various articles decrying the company’s approach to privacy.

Tamar Weinberg has an excellent writeup on Techipedia, “An Open Letter to Facebook.” As I commented there, Facebook needs an ombudsperson to represent its otherwise voiceless individual users:

Part of the problem is the disconnect between Facebook’s users and customers. The Facebook experience is primarily about individuals interacting with each other (and with businesses, sure), but those individuals are not a source of the company’s revenue.

It’s kind of like newspapers, where the advertisers (customers) bring in most of the revenues, while the readers (users) are a negligible direct contributor to profits. But at least newspapers have a long-standing duty to put its readers first. Not so with Facebook (or at least, the company sure isn’t acting like it).

Solution? Facebook needs an ombudsperson (or an ombudsteam) to represent the needs of its individual users, along with its business users and advertisers. Right now, no one is speaking for those 400 million users Facebook loves to tout.

Given Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s apparent disregard for privacy, it’s already becoming, “What next?” with ever-increasing frequency. They’re going to lose users, and that’s a business problem.

It’s his company, and some would disagree, but maybe it’s time for Zuckerberg to step aside and let a professional CEO run the show. I have no desire to run a multi-billion dollar company but “prompt user protests and a PR firestorm every time you update your product” isn’t exactly a sustainable business strategy. Where are you taking us, Mark?

What do you think about Facebook and privacy  (well, the Facebook privacy issue-of-the-week)?

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