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Facebook's new default: Sharing updates with 'Everyone'

Facebook rolled out its expected privacy-policy revision yesterday, and it's more of a mess than I'd expected -- even considering the popular social network's past mistakes in that department.

As my colleague Cecilia Kang wrote, the problem lies in one aspect of the privacy update: Facebook's recommended level of exposure for "Posts I Create." Under the old regime, your status updates, notes, and shared photos, videos and links would be confined to your circle of Facebook friends. But as you can see in the screen capture to the right of the settings suggested when I logged in last night, the new default is "Everyone."


This doesn't look good (sample headline: "The Facebook Privacy Fiasco Begins"), nor should it. Although Facebook users can change this option with one click and can also easily limit the exposure of individual status updates, only about one in five Facebook users adjusts the default settings. Further, two posts yesterday on the Palo Alto, Calif., company's blog failed to spell out this non-trivial change.

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation critiqued yesterday, "These new 'privacy' changes are clearly intended to push Facebook users to publicly share even more information than before." In that post, the EFF also hit Facebook for making it difficult or impossible to block strangers from seeing your friends and the fan pages you've elected to follow.

(Yes-you've-read-these-before disclosures: Facebook chief privacy officer Chris Kelly, now on leave to run for political office, is a friend from college. Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham sits on Facebook's board of directors.)

Facebook's update-visibility change -- the very thing I chided people for worrying about this summer -- should never have happened. Both from a usability and a PR perspective, the correct move would have been to leave users' settings as they were, especially for those who had already switched their options from the older defaults.

It's easy enough for Facebook users to fix this problem: Decline its recommendations and stick with your older privacy settings. But Facebook itself will have a harder time cleaning up after this mistake.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  December 10, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Privacy  
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Did you also notice the setting about what information your friends can share about you with third party apps? It was new to me but maybe I've missed it in the past. I did not like that it was set so that your friends can share all your info with third party apps. The setting is under Privacy Settings - Applications and Websites.

Posted by: ckstalk | December 10, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Rob since these changes were set to start on Monday do you know what our new default settings were until we were prompted to update them?

I obviously changed them back to original settings but does that mean for the beginning of the week everyone could see my updates and contact info? While the updates simply annoy me I really don't want my email address being shared with the world.

Posted by: archers44 | December 10, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

People need to read EFF's detailed write up. You failed to mention that people are UNABLE under the new settings (in addition to the friends list and fan pages) to hide their name, networks, profile pic, current location, and gender from any FB users who searches for you. AND ALSO, you must accept friend requests and messages from strangers.

These changes are outrageous. What made FB popular to begin with is how much you could actually keep private. I'm keeping my FB account open for now in hopes that they will mend their ways. If they don't, I'm seriously considering deactivating my account. The other alternative is to leave all fan groups and delete the other PAI but that's not so great because these are things I would want my friends to see.

They really ruined a good thing. And, it was a total Animal Farm move -- we are making things better for you, blah, blah -- when in fact it's WORSE.

Posted by: sabbygrl2000 | December 10, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

About the friends requests, what I meant was that anyone can invite you to be a friend, not that you must accept them. Sorry to be unclear. But anyone can send you a message.

Posted by: sabbygrl2000 | December 10, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm...when I got the new migration page, the "Old settings" buttons were all filled in...but anyway, sabbygrl2000 makes the important point: they took away the ability to hide from anyone. Those who have been stalked or the victims of domestic violence have to either put in a fake name, home town, and not be friends with anyone who could lead their stalker/attacker to them, or leave Facebook.

Here's where you can complain about the removal of previously available privacy protections:

Posted by: MaxH | December 10, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

If you adjusted your privacy settings before this change, then the new settings defaulted to "old settings." If you hadn't customized your privacy settings before (and that is true for like 80% of all FB users!), then everything defaults to "everyone." Even if you had customized your settings before, the entirely new options (including photo albums) are defaulted to "everyone." So people should carefully check everything.

The absolute worst part of this new change is noted in the first comment. Anytime one of your friends downloads an app, that app is able to collect YOUR personally available information which now includes the information I noted above. This is huge! It may actually force me to deactivate my account, which makes me sad.

OK, I need to stop obsessing on this and be productive!!

Posted by: sabbygrl2000 | December 10, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

For sabbygrl2000:

I think you can restrict communications and generally available info to friends only:

Settings>Privacy>Contact Information> various toggles

(It might be possible to block friend requests via the "Add me as a friend" toggle. I'm not sure)

Also, you can restrict who can search for you:

Posted by: jerryravens | December 10, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

I wish they would have set most of the toggles to some other, more restrictive, setting.

But, at least by using the pop-up they are really forcing people to think about their privacy settings.

Posted by: jerryravens | December 10, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I am reasonably web savvy and I find Facebook's privacy settings complicated. Part of it is because of the sheer scope of things FB covers (posts, pictures, notes, apps etc). So some complexity is unavoidable. But I would think FB should do 2 things:

* make everything private by default
* provide a single setting that says "make all stuff private"

Unfortunately, doing those 2 things will go against their need to make money.

Posted by: tundey | December 10, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

These changes are a total joke. There is now no way to keep your friend list completely private - your friends can see it. And there is no way to make your pages private - anyone can see them and there's nothing you can do about it.

I'm with tundey - there should be an option to make everything private and then you could loosen it up from there. But like he/she said, it's about the money.

Posted by: dennis5 | December 10, 2009 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Another misunderstanding for me and many others is we were told these new privacy changes were to help give users the ability to choose what we want to share. Why is it now all of our "comments" and "likes" on friends posts are now public on our profile wall?

Facebook used to have a privacy option for Newsfeed & Wall settings. This option is now no longer available and all of our recent activity is available for all friends to view. I may not want all my friends to know when I "comment" on or "like" another friend's post. Not all of my friends are friends with each other so it helps to not share all my information with everyone.

I have posted a complaint in the help section but as far as I can tell our recent activity is now defaulted as public information and each post for "comment" or "like" on another friends post has to be manually removed off my profile wall.

Very irritating to say the least.

Posted by: dmaxwell1 | December 11, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Have a FB account but seldom use it. I attempted to tighten up my settings but can't really verify what others are seeing. I can't see my page by searching and so have to log in to see it. Once I'm in I can see everything. Is this a "maybe you need to phone a friend" problem?

Posted by: cdevereux | December 13, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

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