Now Is It Facebook’s Microsoft Moment?

I came close to killing my Facebook account this week. As I delved even deeper to the supposed privacy I have or don’t have on the service, I wondered why on earth I even have an account at all. And I kept thinking of Anil Dash’s post earlier this year, Google’s Microsoft Moment. Was this now Facebook’s turn to for people to see it as having gone evil?

After I examined Facebook’s recommended unprivacy changes (see Facebook’s Privacy Upgrade Recommends I Be Less Private), I then read the EFF’s summary, Facebook’s New Privacy Changes: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. I was disturbed to discover things I previously had as options were no longer in my control. For instance:

Under the new regime, Facebook treats that information — along with your name, profile picture, current city, gender, networks, and the pages that you are a “fan” of — as “publicly available information” or “PAI.” Before, users were allowed to restrict access to much of that information. Now, however, those privacy options have been eliminated. For example, although you used to have the ability to prevent everyone but your friends from seeing your friends list, that old privacy setting — shown below — has now been removed completely from the privacy settings page.

Seriously, I can’t make who my friends are private? Well, today I can, because Facebook backtracked on that. And so now I have to backtrack and find where that setting is and check how it’s configured.

That, in turn, is exhausting. Back to my previous post, remember when Facebook asked me and others to reconsider our privacy settings with this page:

Facebook Privacy Settings

That gives the impression that if you make you decisions on the items listed, you’ve covered all the privacy issues you might have on Facebook.

Not so. Those aren’t my “privacy settings” as billed. Those are privacy settings just for my profile data. But if I go to the main privacy screen, I discover I’ve also got privacy settings for contact info, applications, search and a block list:

Facebook | Privacy Settings

Here I discover that everyone can see my web site:

Facebook | Privacy Settings

That’s cool, but when did I set this? And why didn’t Facebook prompt me to review that setting?

In another screen, I discover my friends can share my birthday. That’s my birthday that I tagged elsewhere as something to be shared with no one:

Facebook | Privacy Settings

In yet another screen, this one not even within the privacy area but instead as part of my account settings, I discover that ads on platform pages can be configured to show information to my friends:

Facebook | My Account ads

I don’t even know what that means. Honestly, I have no clue what ads on platform pages are. But I turned that option off.

I don’t have time for this. I don’t have time to try and figure out the myriad of ways that Facebook may or may not want to use my information. That’s why I almost shut down my entire account this week. It would be a hell of a lot easier than this mess.

See, I’m not a big Facebook user. No offense to Facebook, but most of what it offers just isn’t my thing. If I want to share pictures, I use Flickr. If I want to share videos, I use YouTube. If I want to connect with my friends, I have email or other methods. If I want to update the world with whatever’s on my mind, I use Twitter. Pretty much, I don’t need the Facebook “Office” suite of social sharing tools. I know Facebook is great for many people. I hear that first hand talking to some friends. I just don’t use it that way.

As an online marketer, I know that Facebook is a thriving, important venue. So I kind of have to keep an account. But I’m also giving up in some ways. This isn’t the place I’m planning to social network, because I just can’t expend the time to decide what I might be sharing, might not be sharing, what my friends might share, what friends of friends might share and then recheck all those settings every six months when Facebook does something different.

In fact, most of my time on Facebook has been dealing with friend requests. I’ve got over 200 stacked up. I officially gave up this week and started a fan page. That’s going to be how I share on Facebook going forward (and dammit, Facebook, make it so Notes can import information from multiple sources — I want to feed in Twitter, my personal blog and my work articles. And also make it so you only take summaries of articles. I’m kind of ticked at you deciding to reprint stuff I don’t want reprinted).

I’ll add, it’s been a pretty disturbing week on the privacy front with the internet in general. Last week, Google opted everyone into personalized results without any fanfare (Google’s Personalized Results: The “New Normal” That Deserves Extraordinary Attention). It got a blog post; real time search launched a few days later got a huge glitzy press conference (see Google Launches Real Time Search). And Google’s taking some well deserved hits from CEO Eric Schmidt saying in a documentary last week:

If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

I don’t think the people at Google are evil. I don’t think people at Facebook are evil. I think they both have good intentions and believe they’re doing the right things. But I also know I sure lost a lot of faith in Facebook this week.

For related articles, see Techmeme.


  1. says

    Wow. I had no idea half of those other settings even existed. Between the articles you linked and what Valleywag posted yesterday, I’m about done with FB. I got on late to begin with (since it didn’t appeal to me), but I’ve gotten use to the event planning functionality. Other than that, I don’t much care about how people’s farms are doing.

  2. says

    Danny, do you imagine that only a few percentage of FB users will even know about the privacy changes because:

    1) few people actually bother reading the FB privacy updates (that’s how the company will get off the hook)

    2) few people will change these settings and in my opinion most people want their lives to be public (personally, I want too because as a performer, the more exposure the better. Now it just means that I will only share my professional details over the personal life)

  3. doug says

    Well, maybe Facebook is a little evil. I use FB a lot and went through all the steps you did, getting a little more pissed off each time I tried to whack a mole digging around in my private garden. I don’t use Twitter because I felt the status updates and wall on FB were easier ways to communicate, but I’m now willing to give it a shot. I just don’t trust that FB is going to keep my best interests as a user at heart. Right now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see pictures I posted of my kids showing up on FB in ads for products we don’t use. When I worked at Google, there was never any question that giving up users’ private data without their permission was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. And when there was an occasional slip on the privacy front, it was the Engineering staff within the company that screamed the loudest and came after the offenders with sharp teeth and steely knives. I hope FB’s ENG culture is equally vocal.

  4. says

    When I first joined Facebook, I walked carefully through every menu and screen, to produce what I felt were consistently solid privacy settings. Soon thereafter, I suddenly began seeing those so-called “ads by third party applications” — specifically on MyYearbook, where I goofed around a bit, only very casually.

    Several of my best personal friends’ profile photos would be merged into a changing collage within a custom banner ad! Even though it was visible only to me (at least, I hoped so…), I was mortified. I went back to discover more Facebook controls akin to the “platform pages” menu shown above. So, either friend-outing already was difficult to prevent — or Facebook never offered me the option to prevent it in the first place!

    FWIW, re: Anil Dash’s great article on “Google’s Microsoft Moment” (from July 2009), I contend that Google jumped the shark on 12 Dec 2008. As Danny posted then: “What Google is doing is automatically showing you the first two results for the correct spelling [larry page] and then showing the remaining results for [larry pge].” It broke Googlewhack; we fixed that. More breakage again on 04 Nov 2009, when Google stopped providing definition links to multiple words; I’m not sure whether to bother fixing that, what with personalization getting in the way. Google breaks more, not less, as time passes.

    To me, it’s proof that Google ran out of useful items to add, and thus began the “busy work” phase of the corporate lifecycle.

    Product demolition ensues. Self-immolation. Facebook is following suit.

  5. Sam Davyson says

    I think you are right to consider leaving Facebook on the basis of these recent changes. To me todays U turn on the friend list is quite irrelevant. Users had information (who they were friends with) that may have been kept private and Facebook suddenly flipped a switch and BANG it was made public. Now they’ve given you the chance to flip the switch back… bah! It’s too late now. They’ve proved incredibly untrustworthy. I would steer well clear.

    (As an aside I’ve read this is chance to switch back is really just a work around and you still can get at the information anyway – See Otto’s comment here… I can’t confirm it as I can’t login as I’m not a member).

  6. JBMaginaty says

    Relationships have a life cycle. They grow, they develop, and they either become static or die. Static can be strong and positive (as in someone you love and trust) or just ho hum (status quo), with every variation in between.

    The variable that determines how quickly a relationship’s life cycle moves is the amount of exposure we have (to information) about the other person.

    What is FB, essentially? It’s an information hose, it’s all about information exposure. Privacy is it’s core enemy.

    What does FB do to your relationships? It speeds up their life cycles. It is a relationship life cycle catalyst.

    I think when people realize this, that being a FB participant is akin to dramatically increasing the speed of one’s relationships, they will run from FB as they would to “FIRE!” shouted in a crowded theater.

    [And before you think that this is good, that it’s better to build and amass friends quickly, to identify and eliminate enemies with ease, ask yourself these questions: “Of those it took me a lifetime to befriend, how many of them has FB taken from me? Of those friends I have met on FB, how many of them do I really know? How many of them feel substantial to me? How many of them could I really substitute for those I have lost to FB?” I imagine the answers are too many, none, none, and NONE, respectively.]

    It’s the mystery of others that keeps us interested in them. It’s what we don’t know about them and their lives that makes us want to know them more (and sometimes, yes, less). It’s what we don’t know about their week that makes us want to spend time with them this weekend. It’s what we learn about them in the natural context of living life that makes us want them to be part of our lives for as long as we live or never again. And FB destroys all of this…

    There is no mystery to you anymore. With FB, too many people know too much about you already. Why would they be interested when they know everything there is to know?

    [Worse is that FB allows you to fabricate a self that is completely out of context with reality, with your real life in a real world that is challenging and hard and ugly and beautiful and complex and wonderful; and, that false self does not and will not hold up in real life, neither for you nor for others who befriended you through its facade.]

    In short, the more information you give, the more predictable you become. The more predictable you become, the less interesting you are. The less interesting you are, the fewer relationships of any substance you will have, and you even threaten the ones you do have.

    In that sense it’s good that FB allows an unlimited number of friends: You’ll need every one of them.

  7. Se7en says

    I just don’t agree that they have good intentions, at least towards their users (they very well may have good intentions for their own companies).

    If Zuckerberg and Schmidt would just come out and be truthful about their actions (i.e. we launched Google DNS because we want everything to be faster-because we make more money that way) and not the mealy mouthed “this privacy policy is for you, the user, to make things more simpler” bullshit, then I’d trust in their good intentions. As you’ve shown, there is nothing “simpler” about it.

  8. says

    Thanks for this. You pointed out a few places I hadn’t looked when I tried to fix all my privacy settings. You didn’t mention that all of the apps including things like “Notes” which I’d never thought of as an app have their own settings independent of the other ones and not shown on the privacy page. Turns out my Notes were public. Who knew?

    I’m basically done with Facebook. The Flickr, Twitter, email, blog ecosystem has been great for keeping me up to date with friends. Facebook has ended up being an bloated event planner for me.

  9. says

    “”I came close to killing my Facebook account this week. “”

    yes everybody talks about it, but nobody is doing it. only empty words…

    facebook and all other similar places are just superficial crap.

  10. says

    Hi, that’s a fine post & I set the settings like I need it. But let’s face it: social networks suck more than they are useful. They steal time and personal information. I like to be connected to my friends either.

    Greeting from Germany

  11. says

    Here’s a revealing test for you – go and “deactivate” your Facebook account. I’ll wait for you…

    tap, tap, tap….

    See what happened? Not only did Facebook make it difficult to leave, but they refuse to delete your information from their system.

    I deactivated my account weeks ago, yet I can still login with the same username and password. And all of my friend connections, photos, etc. still come up! And when you land on my “deactivated” profile page, it still says that you can find me on Facebook.

    That company is not doing right by their customers.

  12. says

    Scoble just tweeted: “I love watching all the gnashing of teeth over Facebook’s privacy changes like at @dannysullivan — doesn’t effect me at all.”

    For me at least, there’s no teeth gnashing, just some marveling over what I consider the real story, and that fact that the echo chamber can’t see it or is scared to explore it.

    If you piece together Beacon, Scamville, and now this, it’s an ugly pattern (see a few links I posted above). It evidence of a major rot that’s infected the landscape. That’s the untold story. The rest of that story is about how we got here, is it ok, if not, how we get out of here (if we get out of here).

  13. JBMaginaty says

    Scoble exists because of the social media vacuum, not in spite of it. He needs it more than anyone. Would anyone with even a vague sense of objectivity, nay a brain, listen to him otherwise? I think not.

  14. says

    How about the Search Privacy settings that are completely separate from the Profile Privacy settings yet control the same access rights for different code?
    I once emailed Facebook privacy pointing out that their privacy setting for friends list said something like ‘controls who can ever see your friends list’ and yet if you then look at the Search settings your friends list may be publicly available. I escalated the issue once and then was told “Don’t worry, your settings are set to be very strict.” My response: “Who the hell are you and why do you have read access to my Privacy Settings?! You’re Tier 2 support, which means you’re probably not a Facebook employee. Even if you were a Facebook employee, I certainly hope that you are near-VP level before you have such powerful access rights.” No response from Facebook.
    Silicon Valley doesn’t care about its users privacy. That has been proven time and time again.

  15. says

    I deactivated my FB acct for many of the reasons listed by the other commenters. Hashim is correct, it is difficult to do, and most of your info is still avial to your former “friends” if they know where to look. Most of them probably won’t bother as they are too busy quoting song lyrics, bragging about their “farms”, or posting drunken pictures of themselves and fellow sheep. The flickr/youtube/twitter/email world is much simpler, much less BS.

  16. Kris says

    Remember two things here:

    First, privacy wasn’t part of the Facebook design. It’s been bolted on after the fact. That method inherently has problems. It’s the reason Windows has been so subseptible to virus and malware attacks — at the time the bulk of the software is created, those things weren’t even a thought. When you now have to go back and add something that should be something fundamental in the system, it takes forever and leaves lots of gaps in a complex system. Facebook is doing the same thing – privacy just wasn’t part of the original system design, it’s being added on and therefore is a complex mess of imperfect, conflicting solutions (hence the comment above about one place showing blocking friends but in a different part of the system it still allows them to be shown.) Privacy settings are being added as hacks.

    Second, there is a conflict of interest with Facebook. The whole “web 2.0″ mantra has been “eyeballs first, monetize second”. They built the audience. Now they’re trying to figure out how to make money, which means ads. Advertisers by their nature like to target specific people. Why show you a diaper ad if you don’t have a baby in the house? We all hear about how TiVo or your cable box will be able to one day show you ads just for you, and your neighbor sees something else. Web sites make that even easier (this is called mass customization). But in order for ads to be targeted, they have to know about you, therefore information has to be shared. No advertiser can afford to spend money on blanket, systemwide ads anymore. It’s just too expensive. Therefore the money to be made will be from systems that can help advertisers target, i.e. social networking sites.

    If FB goes too far and blocks all this information, advertisers will simply say “well this is no better than just buying a banner ad that shows to everyone, and that’s a big waste”, and they’ll bail. The consumer complains about all the ads they’re shown that have nothing to do with them. I don’t really have a position on this, I can see both sides, but it’s not quite as evil as big brother wanting to know if you have kids or not, they just want to know whether to bother spending money to show you a toy ad.

  17. tim says

    There’s really only one privacy policy on Facebook or any other Web site: If you don’t want something to be public, don’t put it on the Internet.

  18. says

    Danny, a Google spokesperson has clarified the comment you mentioned by Eric Schmidt. Article is at and the quote is

    “The context in which Eric answered this question was clear,” said a Google spokesperson in an e-mailed statement. “He was talking about the US Patriot Act. The [CNBC] documentary later made clear the lengths to which Google goes to inform and empower users about privacy-related concerns, including creating a dashboard in which users can review and control data in their Google accounts.”

  19. says

    Hey guys – no one cares. Nothing’s private any more – that’s so 20th century. We’re all taped, scanned, photographed, sold, whatever, all day online/offline. The only thing that makes you “private” now is having so much stuff out there that it chokes whoever tries to use it. And FB never cost me a cent. So sign up for everything, link everything to everything, unprivatize everything. No one cares. 99% of what’s published is never read. Do you think I’m reading tweets from 500 people I never met or want to meet ? Do you think any of the tweets I sent to friends every got through ? If you say ok to be friends on FB, you’re public anyway. And if any corporations are buying anything based on metrics, they need another job. The more metrics, the less I buy of anything. In fact, every month I buy less of anything. But I’ll happily cycle 20 miles to buy something no one every advertised. So many trees, so little wood. Cheers Mike –

  20. Cary Allen says

    I wouldn’t worry. I’m sure a property owned by Rupert Murdoch would never do anything contrary to its subscriber’s interest by manipulating them to make a profit or misusing the information they had voluntarily supplied. Go back to sleep.

  21. Will says

    In essence, Facebook has asked everyone to review their security settings, and given them more encouragement to limit information that one may have shared too casually in the past. It’s a good pro-active move of Facebook, to recognize the misuse of information and to prompt people to select higher security settings.

    So what’s the fuss? As detailed in your blog entry, the “Privacy Settings” page has all the options right there. The only cause for complaint is that the “Please Update Your Privacy Settings” nag-screen was too simplistic, and one really needs to visit the Privacy Settings page afterwards — as I certainly did (and probably millions of others did as well) after realizing that I did not remember what my “Old Settings” were.

    I ended up more carefully choosing my settings. And that is what this whole alert was all about.

  22. Deede says

    I am kind of surprised by people being so confused about the privacy settings. Many of the things you are talking about (the platform ad settings, etc) have been there for most of the past year. I am personally annoyed that now my ‘recent activity’ is posted on my wall- I used to be able to keep that private, but most of the rest I can control as much as I always did. I think the error is in not keeping up with them in the first place. I take new FB people through dealing with privacy settings on a regular basis and have sent emails and posted notes that have been shared about it. FB is a social networking site and all along it has had most of its default settings to the LEAST private. It has always been up to the user to go in and set things to more private. This seems like just more of the same.

    As for why FB? I would personally rather have one site for my photos, videos, and notes, etc than have to deal with multiple sites.

  23. smiley says

    I never joined. If you don’t get anything out of it, why did you?

    And… I’d bet you $50 that a bunch of people at FB probably /are/ evil. How else to explain their company’s horrible treatment of all the suckers they’ve roped in?

  24. says

    Of course having said that, I’m now wondering how THIS site grabbed my picture and is using it next to my post!!! I didn’t upload that jpeg an I have no idea why it appears next to my post. My original point was simply that one shouldn’t expect anyone to be strictly policing their privacy online, especially in social media environments like Facebook. Once you sign up and start engaging with the FB community, you’ve forfeited privacy. That’s the essence of Facebook.

  25. says

    Great post, thanks for illuminating this for us! Since I work in this industry I know that FB is doing all sorts of stuff with my data, but I didn’t think it was this bad… nor did I even think about the hassle factor. It’s really a subversive way to get control of people’s content for free.

    That quote from Eric Schmidt kinda sounds like something Dick Cheney would say. So stupid is so many ways.

  26. Se7en says

    “In essence, Facebook has asked everyone to review their security settings, and given them more encouragement to limit information that one may have shared too casually in the past. ”

    Uh, sure. Except they defaulted all my settings to LESS private, not more. Did you even read his post? How is that MORE encouragement to limit information they shared too casually? The default is to INCREASE the information they shared too casually.

  27. says

    JaBig, I think few will understand the privacy changes and go with whatever the recommendations were — which might not cover all the privacy changes that have actually happened. I also think there are probably significant numbers of people on Facebook who want to share their lives with selected people, not with the word in general.

    Stefan, I agree, people might talk about it but not do it. But more realistically, they might make less use of Facebook.

    Hashim, that’s scary. If you choose to delete your account, you should have an option that really does wipe out everything. Less than that is certainly disappointing.

    Chrisco, agreed. It’s fine that Scoble doesn’t gnash his teeth because everything he puts out on Facebook is public anyway — or meant to be. And that’s a good philosophy to follow, in general.

    Like I said in my earlier post, Facebook’s Privacy Upgrade Recommends I Be Less Private, stuff I’m sharing with 1,600 “friends” isn’t stuff that I’m reasonably expecting to stay “private.”

    But I’m not like a lot of people. Scoble sure as heck isn’t. There are people who like Facebook because they believe it allows them to share with a small group of friends and really keep stuff private. So when you get things like “friends of friends,” that control starts slipping.

    Even with the control, though — you share with a friend, the potential for that “private” stuff to get out is there, no matter what the controls are. But that doesn’t let Facebook off the hook. If it’s going to offer controls, then make them clear and don’t go changing things.

    Ted, I saw that search privacy stuff and thought what the heck are these? Agreed, it’s yet another level of stuff you have to consider (and which wasn’t on that “check your settings” page.

    Kris, my understanding is that privacy was very much part of the design. In fact, you have all these settings because supposedly, they wanted you to set various levels. But what was a very closed system wants to be more open these days in hopes of attracting more page views, I’d and others are finding. So they struggle with how to get all those “private” people to open up.

    Tim, agreed. As said before, you want it private, really private, don’t put it on the web (Facebook included). But many people don’t understand that, do believe that if they mark things private in Facebook, it’ll stay that way and potentially are being made less private than they wanted if those controls are relaxed.

    Cary, Rupert owns MySpace :)

    Will, the fuss is because it wasn’t a pro-active move to get people to ensure they weren’t sharing too broadly, not when the recommendations did the opposite and suggested opening things up. The nag screen also wasn’t just too simple. It was woefully incomplete in not outlining other privacy options not listed or privacy options you used to have that were taken away entirely.

    David, you’re recognized through a system called that matches the email address you provided with an image that you’ve associated with WordPress (to my understanding).

  28. Maxine says

    You can be as private as you like….but if you are friends with someone who isn’t “private”……all of your info will find its way onto the Internet too.

    If you’ve made comments on someone’s wall…who hasn’t upgraded the default settings, or doesn’t check their account very often……you (no matter how private) automatically become public.


  29. Maxine says

    Danny is there any way to block the “pages you are a fan of” ?

    A user can block everything else, but supposedly the “pages you are a fan of” will still show, and I guess they’ve eliminated that option, but any chance they’ll backtrack on that ?

  30. says

    ‘Who’s Data Is It Anyway?’ – In the face of the pre IPO privacy sell out, shouldn’t FB just become a ubiquitous utility like the telephone? Personally I hate the ads anyway and as for being a fan of something, to me that just feels real patronising…

  31. says

    At least you finally figured it out. I am surprised that anyone assumed that there was any privacy at all on Facebook. I respect your opinion, enjoy your blog posts, but find it difficult to believe that you “bought” into the party line in the beginning, given all the Privacy advocates blogging, chatting and messaging in ALL CAPS to the contrary.

    I used the example of the college age girl at a party in the 19 – 20 range with a “gator” cup in her hands at a party. Now you could not see the liquid in the cup, could have been soda, but a company refused to hire her (so an HR person stated) because they “assumed” the cup contained an alcoholic beverage and determined (rightly or wrongly) that she had used poor judgment. When I share this message with teens and pre-teens, I emphasize to them to be careful what you post on line as it might cost you a job one day and you will never know it. You will never know why you did not get hired.

    Add in the fact that a person (perhaps even a friend) could post something less than politically correct on your Facebook page and that might impact you in a negative way…the possibilities are limitless, many of them not so great for you from a business prospective.

    I think most of us saw this reality from the beginning, many of us chose NOT to get a Facebook account because of these privacy concerns. Many threw caution to the wind and signed up anyway.

    At least you know now.

    For real privacy, everything must be private or OFF from the beginning, of course this will not help you with attracting advertisers will it?

  32. says

    You have to get over this.

    You want some privacy and some public data, but you aren’t willing to learn how privacy works. You don’t like it when things change. “Why is this so hard?” … welcome to cloud computing.

    UI’s are going to change constantly. Look at early Mac OS’s, early Windows OS’s compared to what they look like now. In the programming world there is an old adage: “All problems can be solved by introducing another layer of abstraction.” The more abstraction you introduce, the more confusing things get … but it solves the problem.

    Twitter is popular due to its simplicity. You don’t need to ask for permission to follow. You don’t need permission to monitor a topic. But you don’t get any fine grained permissions either. There is no real privacy. That too will change and you’ll complain about that then as well.

    This is going to be a way of online life … the sooner you learn the rules the happier you’ll be.

  33. says

    Maxine, I’m not sure of the settings for blocking fan pages, sorry.

    Sandy, I don’t need to get over anything. I can just choose not to participate in Facebook, if I don’t want.

    But let’s be clear. Sure, I’m happy to learn how privacy works, to a point. When it turns out that I’ve got easily 20 different privacy settings in my “fine grained” control to worry about, suddenly my social network has become homework to keep up on — and I don’t want to spend that time of type.

    I especially don’t when some of that control is taken away entirely (such as friends being private, then being made public without being asked about that).

    Twitter is simple, and easy, and is public by default. So there’s little for Twitter to have changed on its users, compared to what Facebook did.

  34. says

    Fair enough and point taken. I’m not requesting you stay on Facebook, but if you don’t want to concern yourself with privacy you have to assume you don’t have any … just like you do with twitter. In that case you would be correct that Facebook is perhaps not the best vehicle for you.

    If I’m that concerned about privacy I’ll use Tor, create anonymous persona’s and proxy my IP all the time … but I’m not looking to be Banksy. I just want a reasonable gated-community away from my public/professional persona.

    This brings us back to Eric Schmidt’s comment: never do wrong and sleep at night … but we know that is the wrong answer.

    And I’m not a Facebook fanboy … but it’s the devil you know right now. The herd will move if a better solution presents itself. The only alternative is self-censorship and that’s a greater sin.

  35. Milo Norman says

    I just closed my facebook account today.

    Facebook is useless.

    It was complete waste of my time.

  36. says

    FB will continue to grow at a rate of 600k to 700k per day. They are probably not going to miss a few hundred account closures on account of these changes. IMO not too many users are that tuned into this privacy issue or will see it as a reason to cancel.

  37. sid says

    These changes – and especially the “check your settings” page – certainly appear underhand, because the average Facebook user may well assume that when they use fb to publish to their friends, that is exactly what they are doing, and nothing more.

    Similarly, although “we” all know that Twitter is entirely public, many new Twitter users believe that Replies are just that – private, one-to-one messages.

    Underlying this is a subtle problem: in a world where “web applications” are now the default, average joe user really only has “applications” as reference points. Fb and twitter seem to joe to be successors to email and instant messaging, not successors to personal home pages and blogs – ie the “web”. Millions of people who would never have created a blog will gladly use fb. Facebook knows this, and relies upon it, therefore it is disingenuous in the extreme to push users’ content across that implicit line to the wider web.

    The bottom line is that Facebook must look after its bottom line, and is choosing to do so in a way which is arguably not in all its users’ best interests – if it only had the guts and honesty to charge its users for its app/service, it could provide them with all the privacy they would then (as paying customers) irrefutably deserve.

    Beware “free”!

  38. Kevin says

    I’m glad someone said it… good read.

    I don’t use FB that often, but when I do, I don’t need it to change the (already confusing) settings that I painstakingly set in the past. For me, part of the reason I keep most things private except for with my confirmed facebook friends is due to my work setting, and no, it isn’t because I’m doing things I ought not to be doing (as the Google CEO was quoted), it’s because I work in a forensic setting and I don’t really need prisoners or their families trying to contact me.

    A perceived sense of actual control over Internet privacy was part of what made Facebook appealing to me in the first place: I could stay in touch or reconnect with old friends from college but could keep things private from others as I saw fit. When I logged on with the ‘new privacy settings’ that I didn’t opt-in for, I found out that some settings I had customized had changed and that some people who I explicitly marked to not be able to look at parts or all of my Facebook page could now see more info than ever…

    Thanks a lot, Mark Z.

  39. jn says

    Also check the permission settings for your FB apps, I found quite a few that were set to Everyone.

    The Apps permissions UI is insanely complicated and extremely hard to decipher. Also there is no single button that says uninstall this app. You have to go through and slowly remove perms until you get prompted to remove the app.

  40. says

    I explained that in my post. Facebook is an important marketing venue. I need an account in order to maintain various company fan pages. So I’ve kept my account, created my own fan page where I have more control and plan to dial back things on my personal account — not that I was sharing much in it anywya.

  41. puck says

    so after reading this article, what i’m getting is that you are just too old and senile to spend 3 minutes sifting through some options to make sure your privacy settings are they way you want them? i can just hear it now, “what are all these new-fangled optiony-dealies? i don’t have time for all this, i’ve got to get to the grocery store to buy some ensure with the coupons i clipped from the sunday paper.”

    you are so concerned about your privacy on facebook, yet you can’t commit a few minutes to setting new and more encompassing privacy settings on your profile?

    and really, the fact of that matter is your are complaining about a FREE service that someone is providing to you. seriously, if you don’t like it, don’t use it. this reminds me of when alec baldwin said he’d leave america if W got elected for a second term.

  42. says

    So Puck, I guess after reading your comment, what I’m getting is that you’re too young to drive and too stupid to understand things. I mean, if you want to get all insulting.

    But I’ll treat you like an adult and see if I can explain again some things you might want to consider, which you should have gotten from the article if you’d read it rather than immediately knee-jerked a reaction into the comments.

    I’m not that concerned about my privacy on Facebook. Go back and read my previous article that I’ve mentioned twice now: Facebook’s Privacy Upgrade Recommends I Be Less Private. I pretty much don’t have private things on it, because as I explained, I’m sharing pretty widely already.

    I am concerned when a major company suggests to millions of user that they “upgrade” their privacy with recommendations that make that privacy less private, which is what happened. Moreover, they actually removed some controls that you had before.

    It’s more than 3 minutes to control all these things. They are not centralized in one place. Some of them are not easily understood or explained, as some of the comments here reflect. I’m willing to be you’ve not even reviewed all your settings or are aware of what Facebook might or might not do with your information.

    But hey, it’s free service. So when those pictures of you puking into a toilet at your workplace that you shared with two friends end up in front of your boss, because one of your friends friended him, and Facebook recommended a “share with friends of friends” options, then let’s see if you think “free” makes a difference.

  43. puck says

    this is going to be my second, and last comment on this because i’m not trying to troll here. but facebook wasn’t made and isn’t tailored to a professional and private user. facebook is tailored for a 19 year college student that wants her friends to comment and like her photo cause now she’s so pretty after getting her hair did.

    as a few people have commented, it sounds like facebook isn’t the social network for you. maybe i suggest linked in? facebook started because people wanted to share information with others, not share it with a few selected people. so that being a basis as to where it started, it would make sense that facebook would recommend you to be LESS private.

  44. says

    Puck, I didn’t think you were trolling. But you were clearly being insulting, rather than trying to raise important issues.

    Yes, I know Facebook isn’t the social network for me. I said that in this post. It’s just not the place I use. No harm, no foul to Facebook about that — as I also wrote.

    But you’re wrong, Facebook isn’t tailored for that 19 year old college student. It started that way, but it has a very diverse user base that ranges from senior citizens to moms sharing pictures of kids with friends and families. There’s been survey after survey about this. Even Facebook will tell you this is true.

    As I said in my post, for me personally, shifting to a fan page is the better way to go. It effectively makes everything I do public, which makes my life simpler.

    As for recommending things being less private, I have a follow up piece from my talk with Facebook when I was in there offices yesterday that will cover this more. They do have some good arguments as to why they feel like people should be less private, or why they felt like some of the setting recommendations reflected the wide distribution people were already doing but perhaps without realizing it.

    But no, I don’t care what service you run or how you got started. You should never shift someone from being less private to more, without them fully understanding that. Some people clearly did not get this. And in some cases like friends lists, they weren’t even consulted about how something that was previously tagged as private got shifted unknowingly to public.

  45. Mamasauras says

    HELLO!!! If you don’t want someone to know something, don’t post it on a public site! It’s as simple as that!

    I remember back in the pre-computer days when our company admonished us not to talk about clients in elevators or at restaurants because you never know who might be listening in. Same rules apply. Use common sense folks!

    — Mom

  46. Shannon W. says

    First, Facebook has gotten way complicated, and I’ve stood over the shoulders of a fairly computer-illiterate person trying to use it (because they are head of an organization that needs it as a publicity resource). It was dismaying watching them stare at the screen trying to figure out just how to get to, and then respond to a message. I’m sorry but the user interface is, to put it mildly, inadequate and labyrinthine.

    There is no way a typical computer user is going to understand this bewildering array of applications, features, plugins, and privacy settings, much less know, or know how, they can individually tweak each setting in 50 different places.

    On an individual level, yes, if you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t use it. That looks really great in print. But this attitude way oversimplifies the issue. Grandma and Grandpa know that this is the best place to keep up with their grandkids, through pictures their children are posting, status updates and links to videos. My friend who runs his organization needs to make use of as many publicity tools as he can to get the word out about their events. Facebook has become almost a *necessary* product for publicity, precisely because it’s free and so many people use it.

    If you are going to present a service to people, I don’t care what your revenue model is, in my honest opinion, you have an obligation to provide reasonable quality standard in that service. You have an ethical obligation to provide something that is not misleading, which does not break the law, or which cannot be easily exploited for criminal purposes. I don’t think anyone is justified in objecting to valid criticism of a service, free or not. If people don’t ask for what they want, they won’t very likely get it. If people never complain, service providers will simply assume everything is fine.

  47. John says

    I honestly find it hard to comprehend that people could ever have not realized Facebook is evil. And if you know anything about Zuckerberg, you’d never trust him with anything.

  48. Vince Ortiz says

    Im a pretty big facebook user and it has helped me alot. For instance, I found a company to ship 3 cars to Hong Kong on facebook. Auto Shipping Network and they did an amazing job. But, I do see where you’re coming from. Keep up the good work.

  49. says

    There is no mystery to you anymore. With FB, too many people know too much about you already. Why would they be interested when they know everything there is to know?

  50. says

    I honestly can’t stand the changes facebook has made half the stuff doesn’t make sense and i feel like i always gotta be on top of the changes they make to ensure none of my private stuff is now viewable by everyone. And they’ve deleted my account several times for no apparent reason and always send me the same general message when i inquire which has nothing to do with me. Huh makes you think i do i really need a facebook account after all?