Facebook's new default: Sharing updates with 'Everyone'
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.
December 10, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
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