10 December 2009

Facebook: New privacy settings

The New York Times Bits column always has interesting topics by Brad Stone. Yesterday's was on Facebook's new privacy settings.

Read the complete column here, which advises users to review all their privacy settings and provides links to other stories with additional information. The Facebook.com press release is here.

Tracing the Tribe's experience is below, but found no difference in recommendations from Facebook. Everything was as originally set up.

The main point is that members have new privacy options, and can choose custom settings for each item they post. The Facebook release's major sections cover adding controls for each item, simplified privacy settings, help in choosing settings, expanded privacy education, additional information and media availability.

What's gone: Regional categories where users used to share info with people in their city or region.

What's in: Users can decide to share content (and each component of their profile) with friends, friends of friends or everyone.

If you logged in yesterday (Wednesday, December 9), you saw the transition tool with a message explaining the changes and providing an opportunity for viewers to update settings. There are two options: keep the old settings or accept Facebook's recommendations.

When you share an item (a photo or whatever), click on the lock image to choose who can see it. And even that can be customized, according to Stone.

When Tracing the Tribe checked its settings, it noted that one screen asked for specific individuals who would be prohibited from seeing the item in question. Thus, as Stone wrote, members could decide to show something to everyone but their mother and father, if they wanted this option, entering those individuals' names and emails.

Tracing the Tribe also modified its application settings and has blocked some of those really annoying apps (Farmville, for one - there are others). Some people may have time for these things, but Tracing the Tribe is already stressed from a lot of work.

Stone questions if Facebook is "guiding people toward relaxing their privacy settings." Barry Schnitt of Facebook says the default is based on posts that users create, religion, birthday, and related to their previous privacy settings.

A blog post at ACLU of Northern California indicated that most users will see recommended settings that make information less protected.

The ACLU's Nicole Ozer said that to make settings stronger, the user must click to another page with more detailed privacy settings. And her organization has a petition asking the site to take more steps to increase privacy and create new protections to prevent applications from accessing user details without the users' knowledge.

Another web organization, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, also criticizes the changes, and indicated members could unknowingly send to the world more information than they realized - or really wanted to.

Read both complete articles above for the links.

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