Finally! Facebook has caved in and revamped their privacy system and settings in hopes of resolving some of its privacy woes. Hopefully, this new system will save some hapless chaps and gals from losing their jobs because they can’t help themselves when it comes to over sharing.
So what are those new settings?
The new privacy option went live on Wednesday. Upon login the user will be forced (yes!) all 350 million of them, to set up his privacy settings and set up what he wants to share with whom. The new privacy settings will allow users more control and granularity over their content. Users will be able to define who sees information such as age, name, status updates, and photos based on three settings groups. You will be able to share your Facebook profile with either everyone, friends, or friends of friends. There is also a fourth setting that will allow you to create custom groups so you can keep that nosy boss of yours from seeing last Saturday’s rowdy party pics.
Also, Facebook has gotten rid of geographic networks, so you will no longer be part of the New York network or any other city, which I doubt anyone would miss. Those networks no longer have any significance since they have grown considerably and no longer provide the facility of connecting with others in your network since its almost like opening the yellow pages and trying to randomly dialing numbers.
So is it all good?
All in all, this is great news and long over due. Facebook will finally be able to answer to many peoples growing concerns about their inability to control who sees what on their profile. But is it?
Many public interest groups are up in arms and are protesting the new privacy settings. One of the objections is that, normally, only a handful of people take the time to set their privacy settings in the first place and stick with the default settings. So, while forcing all users to view and change their privacy setting is a great idea, what Facebook ended up doing is making the default setting for privacy more open than before. For example, status updates which formerly went only to your group of friends will now, by default, be shared with friends of friends instead. Public information such as your age, gender, name will now be available to the entire web. It won’t be a surprise that the totality of those new privacy settings will be less privacy.
Moreover, now there is no option to limit your profile! Facebook users won’t be able to use the “limited profile” setting any more. Information such as your name, gender, location and fan pages will be shared with the entire internet.
Those changes, and other minor ones like removing the option for sharing information with Facebook API suggest that privacy might not have been the main concern behind those changes. The changes seem to push average Facebook users, who will more than likely stick to the default setting, to share more information with the internet than before.
It is not that big of a deal!
Now some people may think that it’s blowing the issue out of proportion. There are good reasons to make a big deal out of being forced to share your friend list or the loser and more public default setting. Some of those reasons have been highlighted by a couple of recent studies. The First study was done by a team in MIT that created a program that was able to guess a Facebook user’s sexual orientation simply by looking at his friend list. The second study is even scarier, it seems that people on Facebook might be too friendly. In the rubber ducky experiment, they found out that if you just create a blank profile with little to nothing on it and you go on to add random people there is a 50% chance of them accepting you as a friend. So those privacy concern issues are very clear and present and should not be dealt with so carelessly.
So this will definitely not put an end to Facebook’s privacy controversies. If anything it’s making worse. It seem as if Facebook is deliberately implementing sloppy privacy. So, it has been only a couple of days and the effect of the new privacy setting will become clearer with time, but currently it doesn’t look good.
So what do you think about the new privacy settings? How do you feel about the information you are now forced to share on Facebook? Let us hear your thoughts and concerns.