Facebook flashes your trench coat open

Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook just “updated” its privacy settings, and I almost did not notice. That’s because I’m (Facebook founder) Mark Zuckerberg’s nightmare: I don’t “share” anything on Facebook to begin with, so my Facebook profile contains little to be private about.

But some of those who do share things on Facebook “came close to killing [their] account this week”, as Danny Sullivan did, when they paid attention to the details of the change.

A year ago I predicted in our (The Economist‘s) sister publication, The World in 2009, that this brave new culture of “sharing” would cause discontent. Maybe that point is now nigh. For me personally, it arrived long ago.

Because I used to cover the internet in my previous beat at The Economist, I had to be one of the first to try new things like Facebook, and I usually was. But from the start I made a pact with myself:

  • No pictures of, or (indexable, Googlable) information about, my loved ones.
  • No names, birthdays, diaper photos etc.
  • No drive-by shootings (photo, video, status update) of third parties

In particular, my wife and children should, in effect, not be on the internet at all unless they themselves later choose to put themselves there. You may have noticed that their names do not appear on The Hannibal Blog, even though I share my ideas here quite liberally. Yes, you may know me very intimately by now in an intellectual way–as I feel I know some of you quite intimately through your comments even though I only see your pseudonym and avatar. But you do not know me biographically beyond what I choose to divulge. I practice Platonic sharing.

So why am I Mark’s nightmare? Because getting people to share all that other sort of stuff–the biographical and, in particular, the intimate bits–is his mission, his strategy, his imperative, as he himself already told me two and a half years ago, before he was famous.

(Ironically, that was one of the hardest interviews I ever conducted, because Mark, well, would not share anything. In conversation, I mean. He gives short, linear, monosyllabic answers. Getting him to open up offline is like getting blood out of a stone.)

To make people feel secure enough to share more, Facebook subsequently introduced increasingly complex (“granular” was Mark’s word) privacy settings. By fiddling around with dials and such, you could determine how public/private your photos, updates, contact info etc were.

I never bothered, because I hate fiddling and, well, I had made that pact, so I didn’t care. There was nothing to keep private.

But I watched, with curiosity verging on shock, what information I began to see, in my peripheral Facebook vision, about my Facebook contacts. If I may generalize: The men shared thoughts and opinions, intended to be public, and the women shared baby photos and such that used to be considered intimate. (The differences between men and women on Facebook go a lot further.) I occasionally felt like a voyeur, and became bashful. Surely I was not meant to see all of this? Or perhaps I was? Perhaps I just belong to a different era, such as Hannibal’s.

But, based on my conversation with Mark all those (internet) eons ago, I always knew that Facebook was a pair of scissors that would sooner or later cut. The two blades are these:

  • For Facebook to stay interesting to its users, Mark needs people to share ever more of this stuff.
  • For Facebook to stay interesting to Mark and his investors, he needs to start doing things with that information, things that go beyond just showing the information to your friends.

A lot of people will be cut by the “transition tool” that Facebook is now providing as part of its privacy changes. Danny in his post went through it, so read his analysis there. Just one hint: Online, everything is about the “default” option, because that is the one most people will use. You notice that the default setting in the “tool” for who may see most kinds of information is ….

Everyone


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126 thoughts on “Facebook flashes your trench coat open

  1. This is exactly what I have thought about the new Facebook changes! Also they have given Google access to our information, including status updates and blogs, which most people prefer to share only with their friends, so that Google can use them as part of their new search. This seems to be against Facebook’s own supposed privacy policy, a complete violation of the terms of service its 300+ million users agreed to. They did this behind our backs, without telling us until a couple of days before it took effect. As you pointed out, they’ve tricked people into a false sense of security. As soon as I saw all this happening, I removed every piece of information on my profile and stopped posting statuses, for the most part. One exception was to inform my friends and family about this. Sadly, and frustratingly, none of them commented on it. Probably none of them bothered to read it. They’re all such sheep, blissfully clinging to their ignorance, which is exactly what Mark wants, right? If they were sharing with Google ONLY the information we explicitly gave them permission to share, that would be one thing. But they didn’t even so much as HINT at how much, if any, control we have over what is shared with Google. Based on the fact that – again, as you pointed out and I had already discovered – the default settings are to allow everything to be shared with everyone, I seriously doubt our preferences matter whatsoever when it comes to Google’s access. It makes me sick. I loved Facebook because it had more privacy settings than Myspace (it still does, actually, but at least Myspace is more transparent about its lack of safety) and because it allowed me to find people from my childhood I thought I had lost forever. Too bad they have to ruin such a wonderful thing with deception and greed. And too bad it’s legal.

    • If more people are like you, JMG, then Mark will back-pedal fast, because, remember, he FIRST needs people like you to share more (whereas you deleted everything, by the sounds of it) and THEN your information to go to others.

      This will be interesting. Perhaps we will see sharing, ie content, go down for a while on Facebook.

    • Wouldn’t that be nice, andreaskluth? But that would require more people to be conscientious, which is too much work for most of them. They’re exactly what Mark wants: complacent and all-too-willing to keep themselves ignorant. Just look at how popular those ridiculous quiz and game apps are, despite the obvious fact that they punch a big hole in your – and your friends’ – security. At most, people might grumble a little, but they won’t change anything.

  2. Anyone who has taken the time to actually read facebook’s privacy policies ought to be concerned by the subtle, 1984’ish language. They’re concerned about your privacy as much as you are… they’re just not including that they actively protect it, nor are they excluding that they passively capitalize on it… and as much as we seem to care about our identities anyway, the comparison of “concern” has an ironic touch of superfluity to it. At any rate, a textual analysis of the facebook privacy policy characterizes privacy only as a mere afterthought, some exception to another, unstated rule (profit). Yet, 300 million approve.

    As an ex-facebooker, I didn’t mind their policy so much as I was annoyed by the culture of those who use social networking sites, and how utterly postmodern these other-self markets have become. These people drag their cameras to every party, as if the party is merely instrumental for producing the images that will be uploaded within hours or even minutes. The virtual self has priority over the real self. So, frankly, if facebook misuses user’s information, in most cases it doesn’t exceed its user’s own disregard for their own (and others’) privacy. It’s simply astounding the depth of information people share on these sites. Kind of sad but true.

    • Quid Pro Gnome, you’re right, a lot of people over-share on sites like Facebook. But not all. I had a “status-viewing” friends list, and only my closest friends and family could see it. Out of all my Facebook friends, less than a dozen could actually see my updates, and only about 4 could see a link to my blog. I don’t have a single photo on there I would be ashamed for my grandmother to see. For people like me, who are responsible with our information, but just want honest privacy, this is REALLY upsetting. For the people who share every detail of their life with everyone, I guess it’s not much change, so no wonder it doesn’t matter to them…

    • “…how utterly postmodern these other-self markets have become…”

      Well put, Quid pro Quo. That expresses the “curiosity verging on shock” I described above when beholding this exhibitionism passively. It’s a bizarre stage our culture is going through. It cannot last, if you ask me. There will be a backlash.

  3. True! I saw the “everyone” default and couldn’t believe it. I’m about ready to give fb up. The overall idea of fb is great, but why does Mark Zuckerberg insist on meddling with me and my privacy? Friends only, Please!

    • The thing that we need to remember is that “friends only” is still just an idea. Anything you put on the internet for others to read may be cut and pasted and posted elsewhere.

    • I agree and always take that into consideration. I have many less friends than I used to have on fb. I will post slightly more personal things on fb than I do on my blog, but I still think to myself, “once I click ‘upload’ I may never get it back again, so do I really want to post it?”

      Bottom line is, you’re absolutely right, yohabloespanglish.

    • Eric, I was equally surprised when I saw ‘Everyone’ was the default. My surprise became concern when I thought about my family and friends that I am certain did not take the time to read the screen. I enjoy FB as it has helped me reconnect with friends and stay connected with family across the country, but my growing concern for the misuse of my personal information by FB itself is pushing me toward giving it up. It is really a shame.

  4. From my blogpost on TSA Secure Flight:

    FB experience below:

    “On a totally unrelated (but coincidental) note, I logged into my Facebook account. As you may have noticed, there is a new window that comes up that is a Privacy update of sorts. I have been ignoring this window and clicking out of it or going past it. I was so sick of it coming up that I decided to update my privacy settings. I marked every single selection about what people could see to ‘Friends Only’. Every single one. When I clicked save I got a notice that said, “Your settings have been saved.” It showed me what they were and it marked ‘Friends Only’ for every single option except for “Religious Views and Political Beliefs” which said Friends of Friends could see it. That’s weird I thought, maybe I made a mistake. So I logged into FB again and got the same Privacy window this time paying careful attention to each selection. I marked Friends Only besides Religious Views and Political Beliefs. Guess what, it still saved it as Friends of Friends. Most people won’t notice this and just click on past it or persevere to doing anything about it, but the whole thing is a bit odd. What if through Facebook they are trying to single out Religious and Political Beliefs to pigeon-hole people into “threats” or candidates for a government watch list. Do you see how this could spiral out of control very quickly? Ultimately, I did it the long-hand way and clicked on Settings, Privacy and changed Religious and Political Views to Friends Only. I went back to it and it has stayed the same so far. As a precautionary measure I would suggest everyone do the same. If paranoid is the worst thing someone can call me when it comes to protecting my freedoms under a country that is quickly becoming a military/police state then go ahead and call me that.”

    http://maia1111.wordpress.com/2009/12/12/tsa-secure-flight/

    • FB can be creepy, but you can’t link it to “a military/police state”, for the simple reason that FB is not in cahoots with any state.

      Which is not to deny that, separately, America can have aspects of a police state sometimes. So, at least, it can feel to Europeans here.

      But let’s only blame Mark for one thing at a time. 😉

    • That’s right andreaskluth, FB is a private industry with no state affiliation. However, with public access FB could indeed be used as a self cataloging database of thousands of individuals. It already is! That is unless you can tame the endless labyrinth of privacy options to limit this activity. No end in sight there.

  5. Privacy in the age of the ubiquitous internet, which Facebook is a part and parcel of, has never been more relevant as a topic of discussion, given what public figures as disparate as Prince Charles, Bill Clinton, Mark Sanford and now Tiger Woods, have had to endure.

    But, after the first revelations of a salacious detail about a public figure, isn’t it true that any further revelations won’t change people’s views of that public figure because they’ve already factored in these details in their evaluations? It would appear, for instance, that Tiger is a bit of a lad, so any further stuff which comes out is just what lads like Tiger do, and we know this.

    Regarding the privacy of ordinary people being theatened by Facebook, isn’t it true that we think private details about us are more important to other people than they really are? We think they are thinking about us all the time, whereas they probably aren’t, because they have their own little quotidian problems to occupy them.

    Since technology, in the form of the internet, is a two-edged sword, it does offer opportunities for more privacy than ever before. Think of the personal hand-written diary, which, when discovered by a spouse rummaging through a cupboard, has cause many a domestic difficulty. Now, instead of keeping a handwritten private diary, you can keep it on Google Docs, so the chances of anyone knowing what’s in it are minuscule.

    Think also of the e-mail and cellphone. In the olden days, everyone in your family knew who you were speaking to on the only phone in the family home; and your family could also know from whom you were receiving letters in the mail, and they could also read them because places to hide letters in a home are limited.

    Think also of private letters addressed to you, being delivered to a neighbour’s address in error – which happens a lot – and the nosey neighbour opening the letter because he’s curious about you.

    Facebook, as with all the other offerings on the internet, must be used with common sense, which all too many people, unfortunately, have too little of. But, used with commom sense, the internet and all that goes with it, is veritable manna from heaven.

    • Actually, Phil, you’d be surprised at just how much people DO care about what you say on Facebook. They can be very judgmental. And while most people won’t go out of their way to search for you, there ARE stalkers out there. I happen to have a crazy, obsessive ex who I do not want knowing what I’m up to these days. I’d like to be able to talk about my vacation and share my good and bad days with my close friends and family, without freaks like him reading it. That’s the point.

  6. there are two reasons why I got rid of facebook for the second time. 1) it’s probably by far the most annoying thing on the internet 2) it went from being something that is supposed to be “useful” for keeping “in touch” with famliy and friends – half of which you don’t really “keep in touch” with till facebook came along. plus I think no matter how much they decide that they will “keep your privacy” safe that doesn’t seem like a very heartfelt promise. anyone will tell you that nothing you post on the internet is safe – there’s no such thing.

    In my blog there is a post about how safe is it to post pictures online – check it out if you fancy. overall, I don’t miss facebook – there’s nothing all that great about it to be honest. then again, even having a blog you have to watch your “safety”.

    that’s my two cents! check out my blog if you want: http://www.12baroriginal.wordpress.com

    ps. thanks for posting this – helpful none the less.

    • Thanks for that, Tasha.

      You’ve opted for WordPress and FlickR, but without any EXPECTATION of privacy. That’s different, since you publish different kinds of content to them that you might to Facebook. With Facebook, it’s the vagueness of the promise (implying intimacy) that is the problem.

  7. FaceBook is a fad, a dying fad. It cannot sustain profitability for much longer and up to this point has been overvalued, and will be worth very little in the near future. He needs to sell now if he is serious about his long term investment plans.

    • Actually, I thought that it was NOT profitable. Am I wrong? I might be out of date. As I said, it used to be my job to know this sort of thing, but no longer. 😉

    • Actually, Meds, I think it had a lot of value. Because of it, I was able to reconnect with my sisters and their kids, my childhood friends, and so forth. People I thought I would never be able to find again. I’ve been able to become friends with my cousins who live thousands of miles away, to see their sons grow up, to get an idea of what their life is like. I find that to be VERY valuable. That’s why I’m so disgusted and frustrated with Mark’s greed. There SHOULD be a place like that to connect with loved ones, but we shouldn’t have our security compromised in the meantime. It’s like Andrea said, Facebook is vague about their security. They give you the sense of security, while not actually providing it. If they’re not actually going to give us any control over our personal information, they shouldn’t pretend they are.

  8. I must confess that this entire privacy discussion is a trifle beyond my intellectual reach.

    First of all, I don’t get why anybody would post stuff on a site like Facebook in hopes that their postings will remain “private.” That’s just silly right out of the gate, because the moment one sets their so-called “privacy” settings such that even one of their Facebook friends can see everything they posted, any rational person must know that this one friend in a disgruntled, pissed-off, drunk, drugged, or whatever state of mind can grab that information and share it with a virtually unlimited number of other people.

    Now multiply that probability by 50, 100, or however many Facebook friends most people have, add in all the hackers and potential technical glitches, and there goes your beautiful privacy right down the drain, simply on account of the fairly obvious nature of the forum itself.

    Good old Ben Franklin said it best, “Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead.” Remember Franklin. Forget the dopey privacy settings.

    I set my Facebook account so that basically everybody can see everything, friend or foe, because as long as there’s even one single person on this earth that I wouldn’t want to be in possession of a particular piece of information, this piece of information will never make it onto my profile. If I wouldn’t say it or show it on Oprah’s couch, I’m not posting it on a “social networking” site. And if I’m willing to reveal something to 81 people (my current Facebook friends count), I might as well display everything on a giant billboard in Times Square, or, indeed, tell Oprah on live TV. Same difference.

    Oh, and speaking of American revolutionaires, Thomas Paine wrote a little booklet called “Common Sense.” Verily, it seems like our Founders anticipated Facebook.

    • Peter, your cynicism saddens me! You’re right, people who are drugged and disgruntled will do weird things, but I don’t think most people are… Normal people generally don’t share their information with “drugged” or “disgruntled” people. My privacy settings were supposed to make it so my statuses and posts were visible only to my VERY closest, most trusted friends and family. Even some of my own family members couldn’t see it. Only people I knew very well and trusted with my life could see it. You seem to imply that it is foolish and pathetic to share anything or to trust anyone. I’ve heard other people express the same sort of sentiment. And yet people complain that families are too disconnected and there is no sense of community and blah blah blah. Well of course not, if we’re not supposed to openly communicate with each other! Since when are people stupid for telling their close family members and lifelong friends how their day went? I see nothing wrong with that. It’s not like gossips are simply a biproduct of social networking sites. They’ve been around since we came out of the trees. Sites like Facebook are just ONE of many ways to communicate. You could just as easily email, or snailmail, or call, or text, etc a piece of personal information to someone, only to have them repeat it to someone else. It doesn’t matter WHAT the medium is. What matters is that you use common sense – as you yourself said – and discretion with the individuals you trust won’t do this, whichever medium you choose. The problem we’re talking about here isn’t whether one of your coworkers will gossip about you at the water cooler because of your latest status update, which you allowed them to see, but whether Facebook itself will expose everything – your public AND so-called private content – to the entire world.

    • If I may intervene here, for a moment: JMG, Peter G is not being cynical (well, at least no more so than I am) but humorous and cavalier.

      Tone of voice sometimes doesn’t travel well through these online media because you can’t see people. With most of the commenters on The Hannibal Blog, and emphatically with its author, imagine the writer winking or smirking.

    • Dear JMG,

      As Andreas correctly observed below, I wasn’t being cynical, and I’m not advocating that people abstain from connecting with friends and family to share how their day went, what they had for breakfast, how they feel, what they’re thinking, pictures of their pets, or the latest ultrasound shots of their future offspring.

      And I’m certainly not suggesting that most folks are in a habitual state such that they will maliciously plaster everybody else’s personal info all over the Web. That’s probably a tiny minority.

      However, one person is enough to leak something out into the open. Therefore, I consider it unwise to post anything that the world isn’t supposed to see, such as SS-numbers, ATM pins, passwords, confessions of illegal activity, etc.; in other words, anything that could potentially land you in a lot of trouble in case it gets into the wrong hands, no matter how “private” the setting on such data may be. Call me cynical, but I trust Facebooks privacy settings exactly as far as I could throw Hercules. Or Heracles. Both of them. Whatever.

      As far as all the other non-hazardous “personal” info, my attitude is, why NOT share it with the whole world? Why set all the touchy-feely stuff to “private”? This is probably a character quirk unique to myself and my fellow exhibitionists, but I don’t really see the point of taking conscious action to limit my exposure as far as sharing my thoughts and feelings. The worst that can happen is that people get bored, and then they’ll just click off. I have no particular desire to share “certain” things “only with my closest friends and family.”

      I guess that’s why I don’t really care about the privacy settings. Because (a) potentially damaging information one shouldn’t post under any circumstances, no matter how high the privacy setting, and (b) as as far as all the other stuff, if some guy in Siberia wants to admire the pic of my lunch sandwich I posted or read about my latest heartbreak, let him. If he wants to share both with the Siberian Times and it’s a slow news day and they actually print it, oh how embarrassing. I’m shaking in my boots.

      Wink, wink. Smirk.

    • Indeed, text has no “tone of voice.” Thank you for clarifying, though there are some people who actually DO feel that way, which is still sad.

      I’m not concerned about some guy in Siberia either. Like I said (or I think I said? I’ve slept since then), I’m more concerned about my stalker of an ex, for example. I know not everyone is in the same situation, but I happen to have had the misfortune of meeting more than my share of nutty people. I’d like to keep them as far away as possible.

      Also, there was a time when I did have a bit more open circle of friends who could see my status updates and such. I found out just how judgmental and fake some of those ‘friends’ are. The internet makes it easy to say things we wouldn’t normally say face-to-face, and worse, it’s public (if it’s on your wall, which most of it is). The last thing I want is someone being a jerk to me in front of everyone. It’s embarrassing. Fortunately we have the ability to remove posts from our wall, but that’s hoping no one else saw the drama before you got to the delete button.

      I posted a pretty wide variety of things. Everything from how much I was enjoying my latte that morning, to news about my college application, to funny cartoons I stumbled across online, to current events articles my friend linked me to. I always thought, “This is me, this is what I like, this is my life. If you don’t like it, you can scroll past it, or even hide me from your feed if you really hate it.” I never thought people would feel the need to be rude. But a few of them did. They themselves didn’t have nearly as much variety in their posts, and couldn’t understand why I was interested in current events. They didn’t know about the world, so they thought it was ‘weird’ that I did (ah small town mentality). So I decided to reduce the number of people who could see my updates. I don’t do well with confrontation and unpleasantness, and I wasn’t interested in getting in arguments with people, so I limited my status-viewing friends list to those I KNEW accepted me and wouldn’t say things like that. And it was much more peaceful that way. At least, until all this came about.

    • Anytime we use our real name and picture, some amateur detective with nefarious intentions may show up at our house, beat us up, and kidnap our children. So in this sense, it may be wise to limit one’s audience so as to avoid riling up the wrong person, who may subsequently lay in wait for us in a dark alley on our way home at night. Although there’s no guarantee, setting our privacy to high will reduce this danger. I agree.

      As far as people merely posting “rude” stuff on our profiles which may remain there for a while until we become aware of it and have a chance to delete it, I would consider that a minor problem. In fact, I sort of like confrontational comments, as they provide more opportunity for creative responses than the generic lovey-dovey Facebook fare.

      I can’t tell you how often I’ve been blocked and deleted and called rude, obnoxious, and all kinds of stuff on Facebook, simply because–as Andreas has so aptly remarked–tone doesn’t travel in writing. People, I find, always tend to err on the side of the other person being a malicious jerk rather than one who may have a goofy sense of humor.

      I see this as a perfect example of evolutionary psychology in action, because for most of human history, people would live in tribes, and in order to protect themselves from getting killed, they simply HAD TO err on the side of caution and assume that anyone who MIGHT be an enemy IS an enemy. So then we receive a comment on Facebook that could be taken several different ways, chances are we’ll go for the most hostile interpretation possible and zap the person rather than trying to figure out the true meaning of the comment (unless, of course, the comment itself is blatantly vulgar and violent in a way that benign interpretations would be difficult to come up with).

    • One of the comments I received was indeed not meant maliciously, but still ignorant and annoying, and I didn’t like the person much anyway. Another though, was very clearly rude, there was no question about it. Everyone who saw it said they thought it was offensive as well. And when I asked the person about it in private, she was even MORE offensive. So I removed her, because she clearly wasn’t much of a friend to me. I’ve noticed a lot of people use sites like Facebook as popularity contests of sorts. “Oooo I have more friends than you do!” Yeah I’m sure you really have five thousand friends. Uh huh. The vast majority of people’s Facebook friends are really just acquaintances. That applies to me as well. Most of them are just people I know and like okay, but am not particularly close with. But I believe in quality over quantity. I won’t keep a person as a ‘friend’ if I don’t like them; I think it’s silly to do that.

      The bottom line is, everyone has a different reason for having a Facebook account. Some join it for the games and quizzes, some join it to get as many friends as they can so they can look popular, some join it to connect with old classmates, some join it just to see what others are up to without sharing much about themselves, some join it to keep in touch with relatives and friends who live far away, and so on. So what might be silly to you, might be important to someone else, and vice versa.

  9. It seems to be in vogue to flaunt your stuff; even intimate stuff. Extravagant public presence by tattoo, piercing or dress. You are what you let, and like, others to see about you. Narcissism galore; the fascination with your own public profile. Others are much less interested.

    The www is a digital stage and the format of social platforms leaves the stage to YOU.

    I understand that if you walk out on that stage you will be out there forever.
    No turning back.

    Best think ahead; best think before you post.

    • That’s one thing I definitely think people shouldn’t be sharing online: their kids’ info. It’s fine if you want to overshare about yourself, that’s your prerogative. But your children don’t have a choice, and it’s unfair to expose them to the world, especially with all the predators on the internet. I’m glad to hear you removed yours, Asahd2. At least you didn’t make separate profiles for them, like some parents do… I shudder at the thought of that.

  10. I left Facebook two years ago because of the privacy aspect.

    I work a lot with social media in my job and don’t have any problem interacting with people. As a marketer you simply can’t ignore the value of the connections and networks you build up as part of your strategy.

    I agree that there is a distinction between interacting on a private and intellectual level with people. Facebook crosses the line with its lack of privacy, you have less control over what people see and read about you. Twitter, blogs and sites like LinkedIn mean you control what you upload, and allow you to keep things intellectual rather than about your private life.

    My friends don’t understand why I’m not on Facebook. They tell me you can edit who sees your pictures, who sees your updates and your information. I read one of the posters on the blog you linked to (http://daggle.com/facebooks-microsoft-moment-1556) boasting about how only four people can see their updates. If this is the case, why bother? Just talk on the phone, email or see the people.

    Also the culture of people on Facebook as someone mentioned, where events are an opportunity to update your photographs, means these people invest more in their online self than enjoying their life.

    Sure, the targeted ads, selling of information etc. are great reasons to leave Facebook. But the above mentioned are why I committed Facebook suicide two years ago, and I’ve never looked back.

    I would urge others thinking of doing so to get rid of Facebook. You will feel strangely liberated.

    • “I read one of the posters on the blog you linked to (http://daggle.com/facebooks-microsoft-moment-1556) boasting about how only four people can see their updates. If this is the case, why bother? Just talk on the phone, email or see the people.”

      Arek, that blog post wasn’t from me, but I did say something similar in one of my comments here. I can’t speak for that blogger or anyone else, but with me, I CAN’T see these people, and often they’re too busy to have phone conversations, what with having jobs and multiple toddlers and such. As for email, yes, that is what I’m starting to go back to. But the thing is, with email, you have to send it to each individual person, and it’s hard to know what to say sometimes. I mean, some of the FB updates are pretty random, and I wouldn’t write them in an email, it would sound weird. But with Facebook, you can just say what’s on your mind or whatever, and people don’t feel the need to reply like they would in an email, if they’re uninterested. Plus you can communicate to multiple people at once, rather than repeating yourself to each individual in separate emails. I feel like I’m not explaining it well, but I hope you see the point I’m trying to make. There is a distinctly different aspect to Facebook communication, as opposed to traditional forms.

      PS Just because I don’t share with 357 people like some Facebookers do, doesn’t mean it’s pointless. I prefer a small group of close trusted friends, as opposed to the exhibitionist narcissism of sharing with everyone I’ve ever met. I see nothing wrong with that.

    • I should clarify: I can’t see those people because they live thousands of miles away. I’m fortunate enough to have an unlimited cell phone plan, but many people don’t, and perhaps it costs them money to call, whereas things like Facebook are quick, easy, and free.

  11. Hi andreaskluth,

    I have to admit, everything you’ve said makes a lot of sense and I am seriously considering closing down my facebook account. Just removed a whole load of applications from the homepage as I think a lot of app’s new terms and conditions are an infringement of data protection (esp in UK).

    I think I’ll wait and see before I delete the account completely but I’ve already come very close. I just hope they tighten security and improve their data-protection policy.

  12. FYI–I still have the Economist’s World in 2009 issue. I keep them to re-read at the end of the year to see how smart all the experts really are! I don’t have exact statistics, but Andreas is one of the very few who wrote an article that actually stood the test of time.

  13. This all just firms up my decision to avoid having an FB profile. Or Linked In if I can help it. Despite invitations and nagging from friends and relatives. The privacy thing as always bugged me.

  14. As an acute paranoiac, and having no friends, I’ve never opened a Facebook account. But my reading this post and these comments, as well as the other “pings” to this post, has made me realise I’m missing something by not being on Facebook.

    So I’m now going to sign up with Facebook. Today could be the day my life changed. I was blind, but now can see.

  15. Mark Zukerberg must hate me too.

    I received the pop up window with the new privacy settings a few days ago and I just put them back to the old settings, as the whole of cyberspace don’t need to know my business. You are all correct in saying that these changes leading to a breach of privacy relies on people not bothering to look more closely at what is in front of them. What surprised me was the open letter announcing these changes. Facebook usually switches the layout and options willy nilly without telling anyone so the next time you log on, you have to re-navigate. It’s as annoying as going to your favourite supermarket to find everything’s been moved around.

    I don’t play those games or quizzes that expect you to give up your details in order to do so. I’ve now put a ban on Farmville, Yoville and Mafia wars. I’ve also tweaked the settings so that even if my friends continue to play these games, my information won’t be accessed by them. My interest is in what people are doing and responding accordingly, sometimes updating my status and posting videos from YouTube or articles in online papers. As far as my profile goes, the uploaded photo is of any object, character or something created by myself in Photoshop but never my face and I put in the minimum information which only a few people can see. I’m amazed and frankly appalled at how much information my friends put on their profiles including birthdays, marital status and whatever their favourite songs, books and colours are. A ripe harvest for the identity thief, don’t you think? Most of my friends know what I like so I don’t have to put that kind of information out there, but if they don’t, they’ll find out in the fullness of time through such radical methods as, oh, I don’t know, a face to face meeting or a phone call.

  16. No problem… I don’t share much online other than this character ‘Scope”s personal details. LOL~

    Frankly speaking, doing anything *real* online is pretty stupid. But there are more stupid people, who see unreal online as real. LOL~

    I have a facebook acouunt by it ‘by default’ is not there to make friends. So please don’t ask me to add anyone anymore. Thanks.

    Scope.

  17. Hold on. What’s this Facebook thing you’re talking about? I noticed in this week’s Economist that a Mr. Zuckerberg (if that is his real name), got an Innovator of the Year award for something called Facebook. Three hundred million active users on Facebook. Three hundred million privacies? I can hardly bear to read 55 comments on the beloved HB. Great storytelling distills these many privacies into fiction from which we seek the truth (and no one gets hurt).

    I wish someone were invading my privacy. My blow-up doll has more friends on Facebook than I. Maybe I should take more risks.

    • Hurrah, we have Mr Crotchety back.

      Does your blow-up doll have a phone number?

      Today’s fist bump for poetic precision: “Great storytelling distills these many privacies into fiction from which we seek the truth”

  18. Sign of the times that your this Facebook post is running second only to your Evolution vs. Religion post. Most folks aren’t interested in Heroes, the Greeks, Plato, Nietzsche or even Hegel.

    This generation is really into, like, FB and its “gonnections.”

  19. …that your Facebook post…

    Correcting my comment again. That will teach me to hit the submit button after a nice glass (or 2) of Fume Blanc.

    Plus, Judge Blah and I are watching a PBS rerun of the story of Helen of Troy.

    We are so out of it.

    • Ah, but did you know that the whole dang mess–all ten years of it–actually only started when Helen toggled her Relationship Status from “married” to “It’s complicated”?

      Menelaus saw it on his Live Feed, because Helen had not updated her privacy settings, and a thousand ships were launched.

      And aside from that, Achilles and Patroclus really should have kept their wall-to-walls private, don’t you think?

    • The other problem, of course, is that the network went down just as the horse was being wheeled into the walled city.

      Luckily, early broadband (Aeolus, God of the Winds) blew up a stormy 3G connection in time for those in its belly to connect to headquarters.

  20. absolutely right! I saw the change on facebook today to the privacy settings, and basically out of curiosity clicked through to see it. I was almost duped into “sharing” all of my posts with “everyone” — like you said, the default option.

  21. but i dont get it…besides personal status and dating stuff what else people put out on facebook…
    that can possibly bring to such disasterous sounding harm…

  22. I think the privacy options are unncessesary. Either you put up the information you want people to see, or you dont. Its simple – adding all these privacy options is just an attempt to make everyone feel ‘safer’ which is basically BS and is probably a response to alot of articles/videos in circulation about how information uploaded on Facebook can be used to harm others.

    Personally, I think if you add people you trust ONLY, it should be enough. Nobody really needs to know that you were drunk last night at your sisters boyfriends house(except maybe your sister). Ofcourse, everybody will take relish in reading your status updates, but it is only because you want them to.

    • I agree with that: either you put up information you want people to see, or you don’t. In this case, however, there’s no need to only add people you trust. If the information itself is harmless (as only harmless info should be posted), it doesn’t really matter who sees it.

      And of course nobody really “needs” to know whether we were drunk last night. But by that reasoning, few people ever really “need” to know anything about us. If everybody were to keep all non-essential information to themselves, this would be a rather silent planet.

  23. and one more thing….if what you said is true why should it only go for facebook….it should be taken care of for all “nothing but socializing” websites….right?

    • Well, I distinguish between social sites. For instance, I consider WordPress, right here, a social site. But we are all completely aware that we are being public, and using it in that awareness. Ie, Platonic sharing in the literal sense of sharing (Platonic) ideas.

      So there is nothing to criticize WordPress for at all, because it has never promised us privacy, and privacy is not what we came here for.

      Facebook is the inverse.

    • Good point. Of course, a site like Facebook promising privacy is like American Airlines promising they won’t lose your luggage, or the government promising that every tax dollar will be accounted for. These are clearly aspirational promises, not operational ones. And never they twain should be confused.

  24. Hi andreaskluth,

    so lucky i found this. as soon as i figure out how, i will subscribe to your blog. IRONICALLY – i intend to post a link on my FB page to this, not that anyone will bother to read it.

    yohabloespanglish makes a great point:
    The thing that we need to remember is that “friends only” is still just an idea. Anything you put on the internet for others to read may be cut and pasted and posted elsewhere. (i would add from any site)

    being formerly in media myself i was utterly shocked when i came across a person whose entire FB page was cut and pasted verbatim posts from the web. something sounded familiar so i copied it into google and discovered that nearly his entire wall was poached from others.

    FB has no recourse for this unless the person stole your IP! and i have yet to find anything on the web addressing this rampant plagiarizing trend.

    and the really disturbing part if i understood correctly is that FB is opening up individual posts to google searches?

    do people even realize how difficult it is to remove something once archived to google? http://www.cit.cornell.edu/policies/socialnetworking/facebook.cfm

    thanks for the blog, maybe someone could point me in the direction of a site that is working to protect IP for all on the web (i know of copysource, it’s scope is too narrow)

    perhaps FB should be forced to use an app like copy source before people are allowed to post?

  25. What always gets me about facebook (the new so called privacy options are no better) is the many options you are given that amount to nonsense in the end. for example, you can keep your friend list private, but should someone comment on anything in your profile, a wall post or photo, their name and a link shows up (unless they themselves have very tight privacy settings). It seems the whole platform relies on the unsuspecting user overlooking some granular/complex/hidden option, for its success. ‘success’ here is much the same thing as a virus has success at its mission to spread itself.

  26. I found myself disappointed by the article. You have said much of your general thoughts and opinion, which is nice… But keep in mind that some people, myself included, disagree with you. Facebook gives you the ability to control your privacy settings and as a single young male I find it hard to imagine what menacing thing someone could do with some pictures of me with some friends. What was disappointing was that you didn’t offer any concrete details, any actual evidence at all that these broad-sweeping opinions of yours have any validity. As a result there was no persuasive power in the article whatsoever. Give me some examples of people who’s privacy was violated and who suffered as a result.

    I read a book once on public speaking which proposed the observation that no one cares about you. Therefore the task of the public speaker is to take ideas and make it relevant to the audience, not to go on about their own story and their own opinions. I would like to hear more evidence to back up your ideas.

    • So what you’re asking for is really a 3,000-word-plus feature article in, say, The Economist, right?

      because, you know, this was just a blog post. Impressionistic. Goes with the genre.

      These articles have been written, I might add.

    • Nothing wrong with the blog post genre, Andreas. But perhaps, in addition to your regular blog posts, you could also make available an expanded e-book version of each entry, for those of us who’d like to learn more. Your blog posts should be mere teasers for the full versions. Thank you for your cooperation.

  27. I wonder why people keep all their secrets on facebook or orkut. I dont care a damn if it becomes private of public as I dont keep any information which I dont mind people seeing.

    FB addicts are those who have some kind of complex. Just like mobile addicts.

    People should be aware, never ever choose default option on any site whatsoever. Default options are generally set to the inventor’s security rather than our security.

  28. I would like to mention a BUG in this New Security and if any of your readers have the same bug, I encourage you to PLEASE file a BUG REPORT with Facebook. They will ask you for a Screenshot and they will tell you how to do it.

    Ok, If you go to your “Settings” on the upper right side and hover over the word, a drop down menu appears. The second item in this drop down menu is “Security Settings” click on this.

    It should bring you to a page that will allow you to change all your security options.

    However, there is ONE ITEM MISSING. According to Facebook’s Help, there should be a “Newsfeed and Wall” link, there is not. I’ll tell you what you will probably see:

    “Profile Information”
    “Contact Information”
    “Application and Websites”
    “Search”
    “Block List”

    But there is no “Newsfeed and Wall” link for you to choose what you would like to post to the Newsfeed and the Wall and what you do not want posted.

    If you find that you do not have this option, please send FB a Bug Report. This is an important feature that is missing. It means that everything that gets posted to your Newsfeed and Wall is seen by all.

    So, in the mean time, what I have been doing is monitoring what gets posted on my Newsfeed and Wall and if it’s something I do not wish to share, I delete it immediately. You delete it from your Profile Wall Page.

    I do not know how long it will take them to fix this problem with just one Bug Report, but if more people file the report then maybe it will come to their attention faster.

    I’m sorry for taking up so much of your space, but I think this is very important.

    Thanks for this blog and the comments are helpful too.

  29. This is exactly why I am not on Facebook. why should I worry about advertising (an I do mean advertising) all that crap when I can just send an email? I don’t mean to sound like a geezer, but I am seeing a whole generation of people who seem to think there is such a think as a “personal/private Facebook page.” News alert: IF YOU YOU WANT TO KEEP IT PRIVATE, DON’T POST IN ON FACEBOOK. IF YOU WOULDN’T POST IT ON THE SIDE OF A BUS THAT DRIVES THRU TIMES SQUARE, DON’T POST IT ON FACEBOOK.

  30. I tend to gravitate away from things that are popular. My company doesn’t block facebook and pretty much encourages everyone to use it. I refuse to have anyone know what I do in my private life. I like being a sort of mystery it is fun and makes me feel cool. LOL

    Everyone at work knows how much you surf online when you have Facebook and that is a huge problem for me.

  31. You’re right, we should all rebel against Facebook because the company wants to make money. How dare they! They should subsidize our usage forever!

    Of course Facebook isn’t 100% private. As you point out, that is indeed the whole point. Why is there an incessant need to be private anyway? The whole point of opening oneself up is to have more and deeper relationships with other people. You can’t ever have fulfilling friendships if you remain a closed book, and Facebook is a tool that lets you open up on your own terms.

    I love Facebook because it has allowed me to reconnect with people from my past who I would have never had a conversation with otherwise. Everything fits a niche, so use it for what it is. If we all follow your line of reasoning, then no one should ever do anything on the internet because it can all be tracked and broadcast wherever and whenever. Nothing on the internet is as secure as anyone would have you believe.

  32. Wow. I’m baffled by the number of people who still think the complaint is about our “secrets” being leaked, and that no harm could possibly come from the entire world knowing things about you. REALLY?!

    First, no one posts “secrets” on Facebook. At least no one I’ve ever met. They want to keep their information private, not because it contains “secrets,” but because it CAN create harm if it gets to the wrong people/bots, and sometimes because it mentions their kids by name and they don’t want anyone except the intended audience (family and close friends) having information about their children. Some information is sensitive, without being “secret.” That word sounds so juvenile to me, sorry.

    Second, yes there are very harmful things that can happen. According to Facebook themselves, over 40% of users have accepted friend requests from fake profiles. If you have an account, you might have noticed sometimes you’ll get a friend request from some random person you’ve never heard of. Sadly, a lot of people are dumb enough to accept these requests, without stopping to think, “Hmm why would some stranger want to be friends with me?” HELLO, they don’t, they just want your information! Facebook themselves (I say ‘themselves’ because I find it funny that they admit all these things openly, yet people don’t even listen) said it’s possible to get a lot of personal information about someone with just a few basic facts such as gender, hometown, and birthday, which are standard parts of most people’s profiles, and usually not restricted to one’s very closest friends. Most people think there’s nothing obviously important about those facts, that no one could do any harm to you if they know those pieces of information… Wrong. They can.

    Andreaskluth, thanks for posting that link. I don’t know if that guy’s experience really was because of Facebook (it’s just circumstantial evidence), but it definitely makes a point. I only use a single app on Facebook, and that’s Pieces of Flair because I really enjoy it and it’s one of the few I think are legit. But all these games (Farmville, Yoville, Fishville, [whatever]ville, Cafe World, Mafia Wars, etc) and quizzes (“Which Star Wars character are you,” “How northeastern Idaho are you?”) are highly popular and highly suspicious. I block every single one that comes up in my news feed from friends. I’ve made my privacy settings such that my friends’ apps aren’t allowed to access my information. Facebook reset the options for app info to “open” during this recent change and didn’t mention it. I noticed this time there are a LOT more things apps “need” to work, all of a sudden. These include your relationship status, your religious views, your family connections, and more. Seriously?! You need all that to work on someone ELSE’S profile?! Give me a break…

    People tend to forget that anyone – ANYONE – can make an app. These aren’t legit companies, these are anonymous people. And do you think they really care what Star Wars character you are? Think about it, what’s their purpose for creating the quiz? They have a motive. Some of those apps do harvest your information, and they don’t do it because they “care about you,” Bilbo (we’re not naive or egoistic enough to think Facebook, its app-creators, Google, or anyone else like that use our information because they “care” about us). They use the info for their own gain, such as to find out our address and send us spam, to gather survey-like data to send to God-knows-who, maybe even more malicious intents like hacking our bank information, finding our SS number, etc. It’s amazing how far you can get with BASIC pieces of info. There are also lots of viruses lurking in those apps.

    Also, you want to know what harm can come of people seeing pictures of a young bachelor out with his friends? Well, I guess that depends on what you’re doing with those friends. Got a beer in your hand? Wearing a shirt with a big pot leaf plastered across it? Grinding with a variety of girls on a dance floor? Flipping off the camera? A lot of things young people might think are “just having fun,” hurting no one, no one’s business because it’s on their own time… can get you fired from a job, for example. I forget the statistic, but I remember being surprised at how high the number was, when I heard how many employers use sites like Facebook to “check up on” their employees.

    I’ll give you a first-hand example. I worked for a regional pharmacy chain recently. They had been started by one man over a hundred years ago, and retained his name ever since. They have a reputation for continuing the small-town “know your neighbors by name” tradition that first man started. Most of the employees in our store were friends on Facebook and Myspace. We quickly noticed that one of our newer employees had a completely open Myspace profile (you could see it even if you yourself didn’t have a Myspace account, let alone were “friends” with her). She was posting some extremely intimate stuff. I mean like, talking about the STD she just found out she had, describing its treatment in graphic detail, talking about suicide, all sorts of incredibly personal and inappropriate-for-public-display things. Well, I guess that’s her prerogative, right? . . . Except she also mentioned the company by name, listing them as her employer, and badmouthing her boss and coworkers. She knew perfectly well that we all could – and did – read it. But so could anyone in the community. Guess what happened to that girl – yep, she was fired.

    You might not, in fact probably don’t, post stuff that extreme, but you get the point, I hope. What you post CAN come back to bite you if it’s public. If her profile had been private (only her friends could see it), she would have kept her job. There have been several shows on tv about this topic (talk shows, documentaries, news reports, etc). One of them was an interview with a Miss Such-and-Such (pageant girl) whose crown was stripped of her once it came to light that her Facebook profile in which almost all her pictures were of her drunk at parties, acting in a manner inappropriate to her title.

    These are just a few of the reasons we want to be able to keep our profiles private (though I myself don’t have anything anywhere on my profile that I would feel embarrassed for my grandmother to see, but that’s just me).

  33. Hi andreaskluth,

    “right wing, left wing chicken wing” makes no difference to me – woody guthrie

    ultimately this blog is about privacy/ no privacy sharing etc. on FB. however everyone writes, blogs comments from an egocentric point of view.

    as a writer yourself, perhaps you can respond or start a new article about the rampant theft of IP on FB and the web in general. there has always been plagiarism but unregulated FB and the internet seems to have brought it to a whole new despicable level.

    • Oh yeah thanks for reminding me, I was going to say something about that whole plagiarism thing… I’ve never really seen someone use Facebook to plagiarize. I’m sure it must happen somewhere, but I suspect it’s not very common. Of course plagiarism is bad, but if you ban it, where do you draw the line? I know a LOT of people, myself included (well, back when I actually posted things), who posted quotes from other people as their status (inspirational quotes by famous people, their favorite line from the movie or tv show they just watched, a song lyric they like, etc). Is that considered plagiarism?

      Dafna’s right though, that is a bit off topic, but it’s still an interesting question.

    • JMG,

      plagiarism is: a piece of writing that has been copied from someone else and is presented as being your own work (wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn)

      FB has no way to report this unless the member has stolen your work. it is very rampant. i saw a FB member with 2500 + friends and nearly every post was plagiarized.

      plagiarism is a bit off topic but it is also an invasion of privacy. i find it interesting that the mediator of this blog a writer himself has not responded to the question?

  34. Oh and one other reason it’s important to give us an opportunity to control our own privacy on Facebook… Imagine a woman has an abusive, obsessive ex. She wants to be able to keep in touch with family and friends, but she doesn’t want stalker guy to be able to find her. I know from personal experience how scary those men can be. You don’t want them knowing where you’re living now, where you work, whether you’ve found a new man, etc. This might not be the most common scenario, but it IS more common than you might think, to varying degrees, and it’s a good example of why it’s important for Facebook to honor a real privacy agreement.

  35. Was their a point to this article? Or just trying to generate discussion. I guess I’ll have to hunt down that other article to find out whats wrong with the new privacy settings.

  36. Unfortunately, my career choice requires me to have an “online presence.” So I am on twitter and facebook and I have a blog on wordpress and a webpage. However, I am one of those Facebook people that privatizes everything on FB. You can see who I am, my picture, but you can’t have access. You can ask to be my friend, but if I do not know you, it’s the ignore button. I like to use it to keep in touch with family. I didn’t notice a difference in FB. It gave me two options–new settings or old settings. I chose old settings and so far it is keeping my privacy private.

    I’ve seen young girls have a FB with their whole lives, where they work, and their lives mapped out and available for every stalker and wierdo out there. I think there needs to be healthy boundaries when it comes to an online presence.

    • I never understood the logic behind that Ignore button, because the moment we hit it, we’re reacting, and reacting isn’t ignoring. Taking conscious action to “ignore” somebody seems incompatible with the whole concept of ignoring. So in essence, by doing what the button says, we’re doing the exact opposite of what the button says. Fascinating conundrum.

  37. Hey,

    I’m not very clued in about this privacy business on FB. I have a few personal details on my profile like my dob and my photos etc. How am I vulnerable if I am sharing some info that my friends already know about me? Please can someone explain?

    Thanks

    • Welcome to The Hannibal Blog, Deylight. I love your question because I think (after 102 comments!) we all got a bit carried away here, and I feel I started it.

      You’re almost certainly not very vulnerable at all, because it sounds as though you “practice Platonic sharing” as I do.

      That said, three comments:

      1) If you’re not careful, your info may now (or soon) be visible not only to your friends but also to “friends of friends” (an exponentially bigger group, which may include people better described as enemies) or even “everyone”, this default option that we’re railing about here. So go and check.

      2) Speaking purely for those people in my own “social graph” (ie, friend list) who share extremely intimate stuff (relationships, health, sex, etc), I believe there are risks involved. Relationships veer off course, health deteriorates, sex evokes jealousy and vendettas in others, etc. You’re not in that group, so don’t worry.

      3) I also think you should not give any info that, in combination with your social-security number or other data (which can easily be gleaned elsewhere nowadays) renders you vulnerable to weirdos. That includes: birthdays, mother’s maiden name (ie, what if your mom is a friend?), first job, place of birth etc. If you think about it, that’s what your bank would ask you to identify you if you called.

  38. I’m a bit baffled why anyone would put such personal details on Facebook in the first place – here’s my address, phone number, date of birth and holiday dates – come and burgle me or access my financial details. It’s crazy.
    The sharing of ideas – or silliness – you call it platonic sharing – that’s great.
    Maybe the fb changes will be a wake up call to people who have blithely ignored the potential consequences of their over-sharing. Though I doubt it.

  39. Up until now I’ve been more-or-less blindly trusting Facebook’s privacy settings, but after reading this post I will definitely read through all my settings! One thing I absolutely ALWAYS do is set my photo albums to “Friends Only”. Do they still have that setting?

  40. I’m soooo glad to lnow I’m not the only one with that opinion about internet “open source” of personal info… I’m also very thoughtfull about the reason about “giving so much” for the benevolent world wide web…
    P.S: I didn’t see any reason for the privacy thing on my facebook, besides a boring message everytime I log in and close the message…

  41. yup, that’s very true, facebook does have its nega and postive effects in our privacy though the enjoyment is der stl…it’ not rewarding thought.

  42. i deleted my facebook account almost a year ago, and haven’t missed it a bit. though i deleted it not for privacy concerns, but because i apparently was not disciplined enough to limit my use. it began to consume way more time than it should in a person’s life. my “relationships” on facebook were becoming as important (or more) than my real life relationships. you know there were times when a group of us would all be hanging out at a friend’s house — and every person had their own computer, doing facebook while we watched a movie or sat around and talked. absolutely ridiculous.

    so i quit. and later started a blog. i enjoy writing more than “adding friends” anyway, and i feel like i’m actually challenging myself to accomplish something while online. however, there were some posts i’d made while on facebook that i wish i could get back — i don’t have duplicate copies of them anywhere. anyone know if that’s possible?

  43. Hi Andreas, great post and a very interesting (if a little worrying) debate.

    I’ll be honest, I absolutely HATE Facebook and I would like nothing more than to be able to get rid of it for good. But the simple fact is, I can’t. I deactivated my account once, but the backlash from my friends was so intense that I had to fire my profile up again just a couple of days later.

    I got emails from ‘friends’ (who before Facebook would have been nothing more than casual acquaintances) asking why I had “removed them from my life” and if I still considered them as friends. I’m at university and Facebook is used for organising absolutely everything – from parties and football matches to study groups and shift-covering at work. It’s literally impossible to stay up to date with everything that’s going on these days unless you have a Facebook profile.

    I’ve found a bit of a compromise by deleting pretty much every piece of personal information from my profile. When your profile is bare, Facebook seems to malfunction and go completely insane. It won’t accept the fact that I don’t want a profile picture, and keeps popping up telling me I should really think about uploading one. When I try to hide this screen, the ‘close’ doesn’t actually remove it – it just takes you to the privacy settings, almost as if it’s encouraging you to ‘publicise’ more information. It’s a bit odd.

    Anyway, great blog and let’s hope 2010 sees the decline of social networking. I want my real friends back!

  44. This is the FB “warning” users are sharing: If you don’t know, as of today (12/14/09), Facebook will automatically index all your info on Google, which allows everyone to view it. To change this option, go to Settings –> Privacy Settings –> Search –> then UN-CLICK the box that says ‘Allow indexing’.

    i have a very small internet footprint. yet even after unsubscribing to a FB group, my post has been cached by google. good thing i normally don’t have foot-in-mouth 🙂

  45. Hi Andrea,

    Since you are clued up on the hassle involved, the constant loopholes and tricks into sharing increasing amounts of information, I wonder;

    What’s stopping you from closing you account?

    My question isn’t meant to be facetious, I’m interested because you have many of the same issues as I did, which led to me leaving FB.

    Also, do you feel that FB are trying to slowly move the privacy goalposts so that people don’t notice? It kind of reminds me of the way governments survey us more and more, and people dont really notice.

    ALTHOUGH, that is a completely new can of worms!

    Congrats on starting a v. interesting discussion.

    • Why am I not closing my account?

      I may, one day. But because I’ve “shared” so little, there is not much reason right now. Right now, I use it to watch passively what my friends share–mostly, the good articles, videos, quotes, thoughts and so forth. Not so much the intimate photos and stuff.

      There is a certain sunk cost attached to the effort that went into creating a “social graph”.

      That said, I doubt I’ll be on FB in a year.

      Re the goalposts: They are shifting them, and I knew they would ever since I talked to mark two years ago. So I’ve never been surprised by it.

  46. One of my Facebook friends just posted the following status update, which perfectly captures the current hysteria over the new privacy settings:

    Facebook plunges the Earth into the Sun. To change this option, go to Settings–>Planetary Settings–>Trajectory and un-check ‘Apocalypse’

    What I’ve just done, of course, is I’ve taken a “private” message that was intended for my friend’s friends only and, without asking my friend’s permission, posted it on another website.

    This is precisely why the Facebook privacy settings are essentially for the birds.

    • Peter G and with permission, might i re-post this on MY facebook page, because it made me laugh till it hurt!

    • Sure, go ahead. You have my permission to re-post my friend’s status update as often wherever you like. Next time I talk to her, I’ll ask her if she would have been OK with it. Unless I forget. Which I probably will.

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