Let's be very
clear. No matter what the blog post
or letter from Mark Zuckerberg
may say (or update blog posts
), Facebook's new privacy settings have far less to do with "making privacy simpler" than they do with one simple fact:
Facebook has "Twitter-envy".
Twitter is essentially the center of the public "real-time web" and is getting all the attention, hype and buzz. Facebook is not getting that attention and wants to be your single portal to the Internet.
Facebook wants you to share your information PUBLICLY.
Let's be clear. THAT is the goal. If Facebook were serious about making it easier to protect your privacy, the recommendations would be different. The "making privacy strong" theme is spin. And judging by articles I'm seeing in the mainstream media, it's working. Now, to be fair, there are some improvements, like the ability to change the privacy settings of each post you make, but that improvement is overshadowed by the larger danger.
The fundamental issue is that when you are brought into the new "privacy transition tool", the "recommended settings" are that you share all your status updates, links, photos, videos and notes publicly. Not just with other Facebook users, but with the entire Internet. By accepting the recommended settings, you are agreeing to make all the info you put into Facebook accessible through search via Google, etc.:
So all those silly status updates you wrote? Found in Google. All those "private" photos of your family that you previously just shared with friends? Found in Google. All those longer notes that you were sharing with your friends? Found in Google. Whether or not you are single or married? Found in Google.
It is a fundamental shift in information sharing from being inside a private walled space to being in an open public space.
Everything you publish - available to everyone on the Internet.
The danger I see is that many, if not most, people will simply accept the recommended settings. And suddenly information they thought was kept more private will be shared with the world.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
My recommendations are very simple:
1. Do NOT accept the recommended settings. Choose "Old Settings" in the Transition Tool.
2. Go into the Privacy settings and examine all settings. Click the "Privacy" link at the very bottom of a Facebook page or going into "Settings" in the upper right corner and then click on "Privacy".
3. Change who can see your profile information. Click on "Profile Information" to decide who you want to see information about you.
4. Change you can see your contact information. Click on "Contact Information" to decide who can see your contact info:
5. CHANGE WHAT YOUR FRIENDS SHARE ABOUT YOU! This is a critical one. Whenever your friends go off and play one of those games like Mafia Wars or Farmville, or take one of those zillion quizzes, they are sharing information about you, including with "game developers" who have questionable backgrounds. Everytime any friend of yours adds any Facebook "application", they are sharing info about you.
Click on "Applications and Websites" to see where you can turn it all off:
Personally, I've unchecked all of these items. If one of my "friends" on Facebook decides to start interacting with a new Facebook application, that is their choice. But I don't necessarily want that external company or organization to get all this information about me.
I admit that I find it rather annoying that Facebook provides no way in its new "Privacy Transition Tool" to change these settings. You have to go into these settings to change it.
6. Change what information is accessible via search. Click on "Search" to change whether you want your information to be found via a Google Search:
If you go through each of these panels and make sure the changes reflect how you want your information shared, you'll wind up in a much better space with regard to privacy.
THE EVEN GREATER DANGER
There is an even greater danger to privacy lurking in the fine print:
Facebook has reclassified what is "publicly available information". Your name... profile photo... and friend list are now "visible to everyone". And guess what?
There's nothing you can do about that (except, perhaps to not use any applications).
It's just the price of using a walled garden service like Facebook where a single company is in charge.
I understand Facebook's business need to push people to share more information. They feel they need to be the center of the "real-time web"... and they feel that Twitter is in a better place to be that. But I find it annoying and frustrating that so many users are now going to find their "private" information publicly accessible out on the public Internet simply because they accepted the "recommended" settings.
Bad move, Facebook.