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Do news organisations have a duty of care to readers on Facebook?

It’s been a week of two halves for Facebook. Firstly, a load of new launches with interesting potential for news organisations:

Facebook plugins
Partner sites can now integrate bits of Facebook with their sites – it’s called Open Graph. CNN International, for example, will let you share with Facebook from CNN.com and give a Facebook ‘like’ to content on the site. It’s another way for news organisations to drive traffic to their sites via Facebook networks and create individual ‘publishers’ in users.

(According to Mashable, these developments signal the end of Facebook Connect and should make it easier for users to login and use a site integrated with Facebook.)

Facebook Docs
A partnership with Microsoft for building Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents and sharing them via Facebook – but without the same collaborative capabilities of Google Docs, says Fortune.

Universal ‘like’ buttons
News sites can add a ‘like’ button to their pages – if I recommend an article or page it will appear on my wall and therefore be shared with my network, BUT also on my profile page as a link = stronger recommendation for the news site in question, plus more information for them about who I am, my likes, dislikes etc

As explained by the New York Times:

The Like button will allow Facebook to keep a record of what a user linked to, providing the company with ever more data about people’s preferences. Facebook, in turn, plans to share that data with web publishers, so that a magazine website, for instance, may be able to show users all the articles that their friends like. A site like Yelp may show reviews from a user’s friends, rather than those from strangers.

But now for the other half – the social network’s approach to privacy and data is coming under even closer scrutiny as these new developments encourage users to share even more.

Journalism.co.uk has taken a look at Address Book Importing (not just on Facebook, other social sites too). Dan Costa takes a look at the implications of the ‘Like’ function for PC Mag:

Until now, the most granular measure of our human intent has been our search terms, and Google has done an exceedingly good job of connecting that intent with advertisers who want to capitalize on it. By integrating personal and profile information through third party sites, Facebook is making its database of intention social.

As Costa argues, while these new features are opt-in for users, Facebook’s privacy settings have been adapted/changed/the rules redrawn several times recently, so are users’ really making an informed choice?

With greater options for integrating with the social site, it’s not just Facebook that needs to be more transparent about what’s going on with users’ information – news organisations using the new features and with existing fans and friends should too. The ease with which most users ‘opt in’ to Facebook may be a benefit to news sites in terms of creating quick and user-friendly options for interaction, but do readers of these sites fully understand where this interaction will end up?

There’s a duty of care in encouraging readers to share/comment/interact with your news site through Facebook and not explaining the implications of doing so.


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