Facebook’s Simpler Privacy Controls

With all the issues about privacy not seeming to go away at all for quite a while now, and recently coming to a crescendo, have the new, simpler privacy controls made a difference and helped to diffuse the situation?

Well, I’ve already made a point recently that I personally didn’t have a problem with the previous system. The real issue was with other factors such as not selling info to advertisers, and making the powerful but complex tools easier for everyone to grasp and use effectively. It took quite a while before my account was fully updated with the new controls and I have to say I’m very impressed.

They’ve truly been able to combine the powerful controls we already had with a new simple to understand front end for that interface which makes everything far more straightforward. They’ve done this without radically overhauling the previous system. This means that people like me who were happy before, won’t have to change anything if they don’t feel they need to. However, those who either didn’t fully understand the previous system or found it to be overwhelming are in luck.

You can now choose between the blanket settings of everyone, friends of friends, friends only and recommended. Recommended is the former default which has a mix of public and friends of friends settings. Once you pick one of these defaults, you can further customise individual settings further or leave it as is.

If none of those templates appeal to you, and for most people at least one should be about right with a bit of customisation, you can select custom and change every single setting individually.

I have to say that even though all they’ve really done is made a simple front end for the existing system, they’ve done a great job and it’s hard to imagine how anyone can really fault Mark Zuckerberg and his team now on the privacy front. Well, excluding things he may have said when he was younger and foolish, and I think you can forgive him now since we all have said similar things we regret.


The State of Facebook and The Social Web

The only real issue I have with facebook privacy was the bug with the chat and other people being able to access it. Apart from that, I’m happy with the controls that they offer, and I feel that there’s nothing wrong with the current setup.

I think the issue people have is more about how facebook appear to be able to change the rules at any point and make what you set to be private as public without really consulting you first. I think that should only really be the case when you first sign up, to have all your settings defaulted to public, but for current users it should be defaulted to private first and let the individual choose what they want to do.

The other issue is whether or not facebook are selling your private data to advertisers or not. This isn’t a huge concern since I never click on any ads anyway. But for some people it will be a bigger concern and it may be the principle rather than the actual data being sold that’s the main point of contention.

I highly doubt that 60% are considering quitting. It’s a huge number of people and I would suggest that even 10% is unlikely unless a massive wave of mainstream support for abandoning the site takes place.

It kind of makes me a bit despondent at the whole social web that this is even being talked about. People wouldn’t quit using email because there was a privacy scare so what does this say about facebook? Does it say that facebook really is a fad just like myspace and that social networking is never going to be actually important, and more than just a gimmick.

I’ve said before that I would try not to get involved in another gimmick social network after facebook, but I just feel like I won’t be able to stop myself when it comes down to it. We’re all going to drift from site to site and they’ll all get too bit and ruin what made them great. Sure, I like playing scrabble on Facebook, but I would still prefer facebook to be pure social networking, devoid of apps and extras which make the experience bloated and confusing.

Twitter in principle is a simple service, and that’s one reason why I like it so much. Will they continue to keep it simple or will they ruin it by incorporating too many features into it? I very much hope they don’t, or at least they continue to innovate, but in a way that doesn’t add unnecessary features to the site.

I’m a strong believer in dedicated websites and services for individual tasks being the right way to go about things. No one will doubt Youtube, Flickr, Google Docs in their effectiveness to provide a great service. Facebook does a lot of things, but do we really want to have everything in one place? Is it really good for the web as a whole? I don’t see how it is.

Facebook to me is a fun way to share quick anecdotes with friends, some quick family snaps that aren’t professional enough for flickr or quick videos I just want to share with specific people. I even use it to communicate with friends via message rather than use email because it’s more personal feeling and quite easy to use.

Stuff like that, facebook really excels at, but there’s no denying the fact that the site is more of a gimmick than actually useful. All of the things I do there I can do elsewhere in an equal or better way.

I hope facebook manages to reassure users about their privacy practices as I don’t think they quite deserve the level of mainstream criticism that they’ve received. I also hope they do a good job of not making the site any more convoluted as it currently is. I don’t want to leave, but it’s nice to know I have other options should it’s popularity deteriorate, and just to be safe, continue to have your own place online to share your opinions, like this place.

Whatever happens in the world of social media, I don’t think having your own blog will ever go out of vogue. Just like writing a diary, blogging (although the term may eventually change) is here to stay and it’s comforting to know.