Facebook and your friends

It is great fun to use Facebook and yet do you know what they are doing with your information? They recently enhanced their service with “Like” (a part of their Social plugins program) which Facebook is touting as a great way to share even more with your friends However, it also could end up letting you share even more than you thought.

This sharing works as you log into Facebook and then browse to a “member” site, one that has signed up with Facebook’s “Like” program. Upon your first visit to a member site, Pandora for example, you might see a notice from Facebook, a blue notice at the top of your web browser similar to “Hi Bill. Pandora is using Facebook to personalize your experience.” If you don’t click no then you can share bits of that site, in effect your interest in that site or story/item on that site, with friends on Facebook. You might think that clicking the X button to close that alert would be saying “No” but you would be wrong. You can opt out of that sharing with your friends, but your public Facebook information can still be shared by your friends to these partner sites unless you block the application. In other words, you are opted in through a subtle misuse of the “Close” icon. You will see a small bar at the top of your browser with the little blue “f” icon for Facebook to indicate that you are still logged into Facebook and sharing information. You would have to log out of Facebook to stop your sharing, but all that you have shared is still there for others to see.

Just think of the fun that can happen if your significant other switches your Panora station to something so not you and all your Facebook friends are asking you about your sudden interest in Pat Benatar.

You can control how information is shared with your friends, the rest of the world, or kept private, says Facebook. The frustrating thing is that if Facebook wanted to really help you manage your privacy settings they would make it much easier. According to a recent article in the New York Times [http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/05/12/business/facebook-privacy.html] you would have to check “50 settings with more than 170 options” to set all of the various privacy settings. And, you would have to master options like “Friends of Friends” and “Friends and Networks” to avoid letting some bits of information out to more than your friends.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has changed information sharing policies without offering a clear way out. And, for those of us who still think that what we do at different sites doesn’t always have to hang out in public, should understand that Mr. Zuckerberg,, CEO of Facebook, has said:

People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.

We view it as our role in the system to constantly be innovating and be updating what our system is to reflect what the current social norms are.


Furthermore, your name, profile picture, gender, current city, networks, Friends List, and all the pages you subscribe to are now publicly available information on Facebook.

By the time this article gets out, Facebook may well have pulled back a bit its information sharing policy, but don’t count on it staying that way for ever.

Facebook Privacy: A Bewildering Tangle of Options


From Facebook’s Help Center

Social plugins and instant personalization


Facebook’s Zuckerberg Says The Age of Privacy is Over


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