Have you ever been sure that something was going to happen, a movie was going to be a big hit, a diet was going to be the next big fad, people were going to march in the streets, and they it wasn’t and they didn’t? That’s how I feel about the recent changes to Facebook’s privacy settings.
When they were announced a few months ago – to an opt-out system for your data rather than an opt-in one – I expected a huge outpouring of outrage and protest. Three years ago, Facebook users protested so loudly about the Beacon advertising system that Facebook reversed course. And yet, in a huge reversal of default settings there’s hardly a murmer. Why?
What’s really worrisome is that rather than a user and citizen revolt, we have Senators, politicians!, threatening legislation to protect user privacy on social networks. What could be worse for our networked world than politicians fooling around with privacy settings.
Boing Boing has a great post on the timeline of Facebook’s privacy policies. In short, they have gone from here in 2005:
No personal information that you submit to Thefacebook will be available to any user of the Web Site who does not belong to at least one of the groups specified by you in your privacy settings.
To here in 2010:
When you connect with an application or website it will have access to General Information about you. The term General Information includes your and your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections, and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting. … The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to “everyone.” … Because it takes two to connect, your privacy settings only control who can see the connection on your profile page. If you are uncomfortable with the connection being publicly available, you should consider removing (or not making) the connection.
It’s the default setting that is the operative phrase here – we’ve gone from private to public for the benefit, really, of Facebook not users.
So, where’s the outrage? Are we numb to the concerns about privacy? Have we just reconciled ourselves to the fact that the only way to keep sites like Facebook free for end users is to sell their data? Really, I don’t know, would love to hear what others have to say.