Facebook’s New Privacy Settings: This is simple?

Last week Facebook responded to the screams of anger over their privacy policies. On the Facebook blog, Mark Zuckerberg explained Facebook’s new rules. Supposedly, the steps Facebook is taking will make monitoring your privacy settings simpler.

Today we’re starting to roll out some changes that will make all of these controls a lot simpler. We’ve focused on three things: a single control for your content, more powerful controls for your basic information and an easy control to turn off all applications.

Whether Facebook succeeded in making things simpler is open for debate. The problem with Facebook privacy settings is that so many applications, features, functions, partnerships, advertisers, and connections run into and out of Facebook. So many settings are needed to control all these data streams, that it’s hard for me to regard the process as simple.

Trying to tame Facebook’s privacy settings is like trying to get a kid into a onesie while she is kicking and rolling and practicing her semaphore technique. It’s like the kid has forty arms and legs to trap instead of just four, and you can never quite get everything snapped up before she slips an appendage out again.

The headline at Search Engine Land says it all for me: Drill (Down), Baby, Drill: Facebook’s New “Simple” Privacy Settings Still Pretty Complex.

The new settings are rolling out slowly. If you look at your Privacy settings in Facebook and the heading is “Privacy Settings,” you still have the old system in place. When the new one reaches you, the page heading will say “Choose Your Privacy Settings.” You can see a screen shot of the new privacy page in Live Blog: Facebook Unveils New Privacy Controls.

A video tutorial by the EFF shows step by step directions for every menu and submenu involved in deciding on your privacy settings. The EFF page gives a text version of the video, which is helpful. If you can grasp all the steps from just the video and don’t need the written version, here’s the video from YouTube.

Wired Pen, in Facebook Principles Deciphered takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the new principles Zuckerberg announced and explains what they mean. For example, here’s one principle and its deciphered meaning:

We do not share your personal information with people or services you don’t want. (That is, unless a friend of yours has done so but we warn you about this in our privacy settings so that means we aren’t sharing your information, your friends are.)

On a more serious note, Wired Pen wrote today about the privacy controversy being deliberate on Facebook’s part.

Some people delivered kudos for the new settings. You’re in Control with New Facebook Privacy Settings is a good example of showing some approval to Facebook for respecting the demands of its users.

I agree that Facebook gets points for responding to the complaints. However, from my viewpoint, putting “you” in control of your Facebook privacy settings is part of the problem. Instead of opting in, you are forced to opt out. Instead of relying on your personal privacy and safety being respected, you are forced to police your settings with a microscope. If you are distracted or confused or not alert and things go awry—too bad, because you were in control.

Movements to get Facebook users to quit Facebook have fallen flat. Most people have concluded that Facebook is too big to quit. The only option left is to be in control of your privacy settings—and it’s not that simple.

Useful links: Facebook privacy, speed-listen

A blog post that makes clear the importance of long content comes to us from danah boyd, who knows a thing or two about privacy. danah makes some powerful points about what is happening with privacy on Facebook. Facebook and “radical transparency” (a rant). There are so many quotable points in the post. I will quote one, and encourage you read it all. Read the comments, too.

The battle that is underway is not a battle over the future of privacy and publicity. It’s a battle over choice and informed consent. It’s unfolding because people are being duped, tricked, coerced, and confused into doing things where they don’t understand the consequences. Facebook keeps saying that it gives users choices, but that is completely unfair. It gives users the illusion of choice and hides the details away from them “for their own good.”

Quick Tip: Speed-listen to Podcasts on your iPhone/iPod at Web Worker Daily is a great tip.