Facebook "Privacy" Settings

From the Facebook Privacy Settings: “When you visit a Facebook-enhanced application or website, it may access any information you have made visible to Everyone as well as your publicly available information. This includes your Name, Profile Picture, Gender, Current City, Networks, Friend List, and Pages. The application will request your permission to access any additional information it needs.”  In other words can sell the information it has changed to public information without your knowledge or consent.

Furthermore one must opt out of this on sites who have partnered with (paid?) Facebook.  At this point Facebook only tells us about three: Microsoft docs.com, Pandora, and Yelp.  So when I go to Pandora, if you are my Facebook friend I can see what you’ve been listening to.  Great.  But unless you’ve been vigilant, you may not know that Facebook is sharing that information about you with me.

My beef is not that this kind of sharing can happen.  I actually think it is pretty cool.  My beef is that it can happen without my knowing about it.

Bottom line position:  Nothing should be public by default.  I should be able to store information about myself on Facebook without so much as my name being available to anyone.  I don’t know why I would want to do this, but I should be able to if I want to.  What is shared with applications should be private by default.  Facebook can make their money from the millions of us that want to share.  50 settings with 170 options is way too complex.  Facebook should have a privacy wizard with basic and advanced options.  The basic option should allow us set all of our privacy options to a) private, b) friends, c) friends of friends, d) everyone except applications, or e) everyone including applications.  These options should exist for the categories of our contact information, our profiles, our status, our likes, and our pages.  If folks want to refine that, there could be an advanced button for each category.  Otherwise, it should be so simple, intuitive, and clear that a grade school kid or a person in their dotage could figure out the meaning of their settings.

The U.S. Senate, the European Union, and others are investigating Facebook’s alleged privacy failures.  Facebook is a great application that needs to return to respect for its users.  I see a lot of alpha geeks edging toward the door.

Where are you on this issue?

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