Thursday, 10 December 2009

Facebook's new privacy settings

The new Facebook privacy settings were activated today. I just amended mine and I'm not impressed, clearly a lot less privacy than before!

What I like

Some of the settings have been combined and it's a lot simpler now. Convenient.

What I don't like

I've never had a problem with Facebook's privacy settings before, simply because the user always had the option to set a specific privacy setting for just about everything. However, with today's new privacy settings, a lot of those options have simply been removed which means as a user you now have less control over what is made public.

You don't have the option to hide your Friends List from Search anymore; that setting has simply been removed altogether, which means the list is now public. I'm sure Facebook will get a huge backlash on this issue alone!

You can now disable your Friends List from being displayed on your Profile page but then the people currently on your Friends List can't see it either, so it's not a good workaround. If someone finds your Facebook profile via Google search, they can now see random friends from your Friends List at first glance. There are several reasons why people would want to hide their Friends List from the public - There must be millions of divorcees who don't want their ex's to see the list to perhaps avoid the possibility of harrassment, for example.

Now you can't hide the Pages you're a fan of, from the public either. This is less of a worry to me since I only belong to a few music pages but then again some users may be fans of some sensitive Pages and the public can now see which Pages they belong to. Zero privacy.

People use Facebook for different reasons

For me it's mostly a tool to stay in touch with my real friends out there and share things about my life only with them and nobody else. It's personal. That goes out the window if the public can see that information too, especially if I have no option to set it to private anymore.

I expect a lot of people who use Facebook for the same reason I do, will now be forced to remove a lot of information from their Facebook profiles which sort of defeats the purpose of using the social network in the first place.

There has always been a huge concern over the so-called third party applications that is used on Facebook, since once you decide to use these applications, they have access to your profile information. Previously it was possible to control to a certain extent how much of this information was made available to the applications. Those API settings have now (seemingly) been removed too. I've never given access to third party applications anyway since it's a waste of my time and because I feel uncomfortable with the idea that some developer out there now have access to all my info. A lot of people who use those applications will now have to accept the fact that their personal information is at risk of being abused by those third parties. No thanks!

The rest of the new privacy settings seem OK... from what I'v seen so far. I'll update this page if I notice anything substantial.


I use Twitter as well but for completely different reasons than why I use Facebook. Twitter by design is public, so I tweet about things that are (hopefully) in public interest. Comments about new technology or 'discussing' new trends with other people on Twitter, even if I don't know them. That's fine because there's no security necessary, since it's the same comments I could have made while sitting at a public venue.

Facebook for me is different. The comments I make there only apply to my friends and as such I need some guarantee that those comments are not public, even if the comments themselves are nothing to write home about. It's a matter of principle.

Simply put, Facebook has failed to provide users with the option to really control their privacy and that is simply unacceptable. All it means is I'll use Facebook a lot less than before (did you read that Mr Zuckerberg!).


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