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Mpls, MN, United States

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Facebook's Nefarious "Privacy" Update

Not all of you dear readers are on Facebook, which is fine: I still love you, even though you didn't get to see the rest of the cookie pictures, for example, and even though I might forget to invite you to a social function. If you're not on FB, and don't intend ever to be, you can ignore the rest of this post.

If you are, though, I want you to be aware that as part of recent "improvements" to its privacy settings, Facebook has removed at least one major setting altogether: the ability to control what recent activity gets posted to your wall and to friends' news feeds. (The old version--as of a week or two ago--is shown at left.) I didn't like having my own page cluttered with reports of things I "liked" or commented on, and I certainly didn't want all my friends receiving a notice if I decided to change my relationship status, so I specified early on that only a very few things--added friends, for instance--would be posted to my wall and others' feeds.

Since I've also always had things like my status or photos visible only to friends, I wasn't particularly concerned about the new settings. Yes, it's unfortunate that users are being "encouraged" to make more of their information public, and that the new defaults are for more public sharing. And, yes, it's unfortunate that many people are completely unaware of the importance of privacy altogether.

What I didn't realize was that with the advent of these new settings, this entire page of privacy controls would actually disappear, without any mention at all. This update is clearly the opposite of increased privacy; as one disgruntled commenter raged, "We're tracked like animals!"

It's one thing to suggest that people voluntarily share more of their information publicly; it's quite another, I think, to not only reverse, but entirely remove, the option users had already intentionally selected in the interest of protecting their own privacy.

Currently, I'm having to manually remove these notifications from my own profile, but they continue to show up in friends' news feeds.

I really like Facebook (see photos and event planning, as well as keeping up with a wide range of people), but this new update really does make me want to bail. Currently I'm lodging complaints in all the venues I can (including one member's suggestion of messaging Mark Zuckerberg himself), and would encourage those of you who care about your privacy and the continued viability of Facebook to do likewise. I'm not terribly optimistic about our chances, but am invested enough to hope FB decides to re-implement some real privacy options, soon.


Ellen said...

There's always this you could worry about instead.


CëRïSë said...

I'd never heard about the CIA conspiracy theory, so I did read that whole rambling article. I was most distressed by the sections they quote near the end about the terms of use and privacy sections. Thankfully, neither is accurate (currently, anyway).

mandy said...

yeah, i'm not too fond of everyone getting the equivalent of a press release when my relationship status changes. i understand that it's popular to make those announcements when you are a c-list actor, but i'd rather keep it on the down-low.

CëRïSë said...

Mandy, I feel you. Knowing things are going to show up on my wall makes me far less inclined to share them.