11 December 2009

3 Facebook Privacy Mistakes

Channel Web

No organization is exempt from screwing up, but lately that holds especially true for Facebook. While perhaps well intentioned, Facebook has committed a series of blunders with recent changes to its privacy settings in an effort to simultaneously protect users' information and make it accessible to open Web searches. Needless to say, the social networking giant seems to be having trouble doing both well.

1: Everyone Means Everyone

When in doubt, go the transparent route. Following its privacy overhaul Wednesday, Facebook forced users to review their privacy settings with a series of prompts that ostensibly enabled them to have more control over what information they share and with whom. If they so chose, Facebook users could change their privacy settings from the default "everyone" to "friends" or "friends of friends" settings, which only allowed contacts on the user's network to view status updates and other information posted on a user's profile. However Facebook failed to make clear that the "everyone" setting didn't only mean the entirety of the user's Facebook network, it meant the entirety of the Web. The "everyone" setting puts users' Facebook status updates and profile information up for grabs by online search engines such as Google or Microsoft's Bing, as well as some third-party Facebook enhanced apps. Had that been made clearer, it's doubtful that more than 80 percent of users would retain the default "everyone" setting.

2: Another Manual Prompt

In response to a firestorm of complaints regarding privacy setting issues, Facebook improved the Friend List visibility option, making it slightly more challenging for members to view friends' personal and professional contacts, whether or not they're a member of the network. Facebook eliminated the link to a Friend List on user's profiles, while also including an option for members who wish to block everyone from viewing their contact lists, whether they're a member of the network or not. But once again, it's not clear who exactly will have access to Facebook users' Friend List. The information is still publicly available, and can also be accessed by third-party applications -- just not within Facebook itself. Meanwhile, Facebook users will be required to manually and deliberately uncheck the box marked 'show my friends on my profile" if they want to implement these restrictions.

3: What Facebook Isn't Telling You

First and foremost, Facebook has its own best interest at heart -- not yours or your privacy. Facebook's privacy redesign was intended to make the social networking site more competitive with micro-blogging site Twitter, which touts simplicity and ease of use, along with openness and availability to all. Meanwhile, in recent weeks, Microsoft publicly announced that it would be forming deals with both Twitter and Facebook to funnel tweets and other user content onto its search pages. Since then, both Microsoft and Facebook have been rather tight lipped about how exactly Facebook posts and updates were to be incorporated into Bing. In light of Twitter's explosive growth, it's likely that all of Facebook's content, including personal status updates, could be subjected to search engine searches.

Meanwhile, Facebook also said it responded to a firestorm of criticism regarding privacy settings by limiting visibility to users' Friend Lists. However Friend List restrictions, coupled with revamped privacy settings, also give Facebook a foot in the door in the professional networking arena, priming the site to compete toe to toe with LinkedIn, which is geared toward professional networking. By limiting access to Friend Lists, Facebook acknowledges that some users might be hesitant to post something online that might jeopardize their current or future job.

No comments:

Post a Comment