You may have heard that Facebook is improving things again. This time, it isn’t a re-design of your home page; it’s a re-design of your privacy. I’m not an expert, and I’m certainly not shy about sharing who I am and what I’m about, but I think, this time, Facebook has it wrong. Why? Two reasons:
- Facebook didn’t give users an option to protect their information – it’s connect on their terms or delete at least some of your information.
- Facebook didn’t make a key new change, called “Instant Personalization”, an opt-in feature. Meaning, unless you change the setting yourself, your profile information is available to sites outside Facebook in order to allow them to serve you their own content based on your interests (as presented on Facebook by your likes, connections, personal data, etc.).
In the latest version, Facebook is helping us be more social by sharing the information we each added to our “Info” tab fields with others who have the same information. You may have no objection to this because you added that information to share with your Facebook Friends. It is the premise behind social networking, after all, isn’t it? Find people with whom we have common interests and get to know one another. I think Facebook’s intention is to enhance the social experience, and I agree there may be networking value there but I don’t want it forced on me.
With this update, Facebook is making connections for us by connecting everyone who lists a band, a movie, a book, a school, a town, a workplace, and so on, to one another by default. Not as a Friend, but through Pages. If it hasn’t happened yet, you’ll likely soon be greeted with a request to convert your profile. It isn’t optional, but you can choose with which pages you’d like to connect. Be aware, the ones you choose to omit with have their corresponding entry deleted from your profile. In addition, there are instances wherein community pages for an entry will be created, but the concept isn’t fully fleshed out. Read Facebook’s description of these connections here.
For example, my “Work” entry stated I’m the owner of Verbitude, which is my DBA name for my writing, coaching and speaking work. When Facebook connected me based on the word Verbitude, it made me wonder, since I concocted it a while back and Google returned 0 results for it at the time. There are no other employees, so I clicked to find out what happened. The connection? A spoken word and slam poetry event. [insert laugh track here while I delete my workplace from my profile, and add the website in a different location] Really, Facebook, you couldn’t have done better with that? Fun with keywords 101.
Instant Personalization could seem like a natural extension of the existing “Facebook Connect” feature which allows websites outside Facebook to let you log-in to their site to comment, for example, without creating a site-specific username. However, Facebook is now making specific sites privy to your information and interactions unless you opt out. There are only a few now, but I expect that to increase since it has huge marketing upside. I don’t mind a website technology that uses my information wisely. I do mind my information being given away without my choosing to do so.
What did I do? I allowed most of my information to be deleted, and will add back those details as I better understand how that works “in everyday use”. It needed updating anyway, most of that info has been there since I joined the site years ago.
There is a lot about the internet many people don’t understand; in my opinion, these changes take advantage of that. My recommendation? Don’t connect online beyond your understanding and comfort level. Take some time to read Facebook’s Terms of Service (you had to agree to them to join, but they change and maybe you didn’t read them in the first place). After that, go to your Facebook account menu, click on privacy, and go through each section to ensure that your information is being used and displayed in a manner you choose.