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Shields Up!: Facebook’s new “Privacy Tools” actually take away privacy, causing uproar

Sections: Web, Web 2.0 / Social Networking

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Facebook unveiled its new set of “Privacy Tools” and the sites’ users are in an uproar. On Facebook’s official blog and fan page, there are nearly 1,000 comments from angry users furious about the changes. What is behind the outrage? The new “privacy” tools actually take some of your privacy away from you. You can still keep your Wall, status updates, and most personal and contact info private, but the site now insists on making certain information, including your name, gender, city, friends list, profile photo, pages you are a fan of and groups you are a member of totally public. There is absolutely no way to change that. Previously, it was up to the user to decide exactly what information they wanted shown when they were searched for in the Facebook directory. Now they no longer have much of a choice. It seems Facebook is actually trying to make the site more public in order to compete with Twitter and many users are down right enraged. I can’t blame them.

It may not seem like a big deal to have your profile photo or friends list shown to the world, but think about parents who use photos of their kids as their profile pics. Fine for friends to see but most absolutely do not want those photos made public. Public friends lists can be a problem for those dealing with cyberbullies, stalkers or abusive spouses/partners, who may then use that information to contact those friends in an attempt to get to or harass their victims. Having the pages and groups they are a part of made public is problematic also. For example user may not mind if their friends know they are involved in the Alcoholic’s Anonymous group on Facebook but probably doesn’t want the whole world to know.

I am an avid Facebook user and love the site but I am among those who are very unhappy with the changes. Before these new “tools” were pushed on us I had my settings exactly how I liked them. Only friends and friends of friends could see my personal information and none of my personal info showed up when I was searched for. Now Facebook has decided the whole world needs to see my personal info and I highly resent that. When the new tools are presented to you you are given two options. Keep your “old settings” or “everyone”. Facebook is pushing hard for its users to allow their info to be displayed to everyone else on the site. Previously when you clicked on Privacy Settings and then on Search, you were given a list of things you could make available to anyone who searches for you on the site: Profile Photo, Friends List, Add as a Friend, Send Message, Groups I Belong To, Pages I’m a Fan Of, etc. Now that is all gone. Now we only have the ability to decide who can see us in a search (Friends, Friends of Friends, Everybody) and asked whether we want to allow our public information to appear on search engines. That’s it.
Most users find this completely unacceptable.

What can be done? First go to Facebook’s official page and blog and complain loudly. Then click on Settings, Privacy Settings and go through each option carefully making sure nothing is set to “Everyone” unless you’re okay with the entire site seeing it. (Make sure to set each of your photo albums to “Friends” or “Friends of Friends” unless you want them made public too.)The only way to keep the personal information Facebook has now made it mandatory to keep public from being seen by the entire site is to set the Facebook Search results to “Friends” or “Friends of Friends” when you get to the Search option. Keep in mind that anyone that knows your Facebook URL (like people you removed from your friends list) will still be able to see the personal info that Facebook is now forcing us to make public. The only way to prevent that is to place those people on your block list. There is now no way to stay in the search directory without having your friends list, profile pic, groups, pages and gender/location revealed.

Finally, unless you want to see your Facebook information show up on Google, Bing, and other search engines, absolutely do not check the “Allow Indexing” box!

While the new tools do have some interesting features like being able to make certain status updates public and others viewable by your friends list only, overall Facebook has seen to it that they have actually taken away some of their users privacy and that is not acceptable at all. C’mon Facebook, wake up. These new “tools” are a horrible idea!

What do you think of the new tools? Post your opinions!

Read [San Francisco Chronicle]

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2 Comments

  1. I'm pretty sure the reason Facebook is doing this is to increase the ways one can search for friends. I.E.: I was trying to search for my friend from school (after she told me to search her name in FB) and had no success in doing so just to later find out that she had all that info on private (except for friends). I'm guessing Facebook is trying to change that. It is, in the long run, about them nonetheless.

    All I can say is that people have to remember that whatever they put on the internet is, well…in the internet. One has to be careful with the content you provide it with. You'd be surprised as to what lengths people will take to gain information from someone (see: http://www.wired.com/vanish/2009/11/ff_vanish2/). I've heard too many stories on how people have gotten fired over a twitter status or how family members accidentally exposed certain information to another family member by accident.

    But after years of being a member of multiple online communities I've come to understand that they're a free service (wonder how long that'll last) and stopped complaining a long time ago. Not worth the stress in my opinion haha :ID

    SergioAM
  2. Facebook has repetitively increasingly infringed on its users privacy over the last few months. Its scary actually, because it has the potential of being such a good site. Luckily they publish these practices so that informed users are able to protect themselves, but oftentimes it is so hard for most people to know what is going on. It is almost as if Facebook doesn't want you to know how to keep your private information private.

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