Facebook Privacy Policy Switch Makes Users Feel Hoodwinked

Do Facebook's new privacy settings increase the risk of spreading users' data?

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On Wednesday, Facebook unveiled new privacy settings designed to give its 350 million users greater control over what they share across the Internet. When users log on, Facebook prompts them to update their personal privacy settings. "We're actually giving our users control over their data and asking every single one of them to go through the process," said the company's director of public policy. However, tech bloggers are fuming about the change, saying it's more about spreading users' personal information than safeguarding it.

  • Capitalizing on Users' Ignorance, writes Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch. He focuses on Facebook's new "Everyone update," which, unlike before, spreads users' updates beyond Facebook across the entire Web: "Let's get one thing straight: Facebook is forcing users to choose their new privacy options to promote the Everyone update, and to clear itself of any potential wrongdoing going forward. If there is significant backlash against the social network, it can claim that users willingly made the choice to share their information with everyone."
  • Fan Page Follies, writes Joseph Tartakoff at Paid ContentUsers will no longer be able to restrict access to some basic information--like what pages they are fans of--and will also have less control over what information about them is shared via the Facebook API."

  • Deception By Default, writes Kevin Bankston at Electronic Frontier Foundation. He worries that status updates, friends lists and other information will be shared without the user's knowledge: "Major privacy settings are now set to share with everyone by default, in some cases without any user choice...Those users who care about control over their privacy will have to decide for themselves whether participation in the new Facebook is worth such an extreme privacy trade-off."

  • Remember Who This Is, warns Ryan Tate at Valleywag: "Users should never forget that Facebook remains, at heart, not a community but a Silicon Valley startup, always hungry for exponential growth and new revenue streams. So be sure to review those new privacy 'options,' and take Facebook's recommendations with a huge grain of salt."
  • Total Lack of Transparency, charges Marshall Kirkpatrick at Read Write Web. Kirkpatrick was initially outraged that Facebook's settings defaulted towards making users' content publicly available. However, it appears that only users who never adjusted their privacy settings in the past receive the public sharing default. Either way, Facebook has not been forthright, he argues: "Facebook is maddeningly unclear about what exactly is going on. Part of the problem is that they are willing to tell press that they want to move users toward being more public, but when communicating with its users they appear to put more emphasis on communicating about privacy than is warranted by the changes at issue."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.