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Facebook Home: an innovation in spying

Posting in Design

The Facebook phone is a threat to user privacy

Facebook's big reveal today failed to introduce disruptive new smart phone technology that can improve people's lives - it's merely an underwhelming attempt to siphon even more information away from them.

What do you get when AT&T, Facebook and HTC all partner to build a device? A much more insidious version of Microsoft Bob. Facebook's long anticipated phone really isn't a phone at all; it's "Home," an interface for Android phones. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it was designed around people instead of mobile apps.

Therein lies the problem. Facebook, which doesn't have a stellar reputation for respecting privacy, gathers more information about the user as it obtains greater control over their hardware. Your every interaction, share, your "likes" and anything else that can be recorded will be. Facebook's business model is to take your information and profit from it. The cost of its "free" service is your personal privacy.

That's not to say that Facebook is evil. I'm keenly aware of Facebook's privacy shortcomings yet opt to use it anyway due to the social interactions that it makes possible. Facebook Home has received favorable reviews by some critical technology pundits including Daring Fireball's John Gruber who praised it for its "clean, beautiful design, and what looks to be the smoothest and most organic animation and playfulness on Android ever."

Home probably won't revolutionize the market, but it's much more substantial than the MySpace phone ever was. Just be aware of what Facebook is really offering: technological bait to get you to willfully surrender your privacy. My greatest concern is that Home is undoubtedly geared toward youth, who communicate via messaging apps. It would be a coup for Facebook to capture the messaging market, but it really wants data.

What will young people be telling Facebook about themselves, and would users even realize that it's happening? Those questions might have been lost during the pomp and circumstance of today's press event.

(Image Credit James Martin, CNET)

— By on April 4, 2013, 12:32 PM PST

David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure