Update: Facebook Privacy Changes

It feels like Facebook is constantly changing their privacy settings.  This is necessarily a bad thing if they didn’t make it so darn confusing.  Sometimes I think Facebook is playing both sides of the fence.  They update the privacy settings to make users happy, but they hide the settings and make it confusing so that many users fail to do it correctly which makes advertisers and other information gathering companies happy. 

I was listening to the radio the other day (it was a replay due to the holidays) and the radio hosts were lamenting the latest Facebook privacy changes.  One host commented that Facebook had set the default settings to be open so when they made the changes everybody and everything was open to all and on Google.  Now since this was a replay (and I didn’t tune into the beginning of the show to know when it was originally aired) I am not sure when this happened or if the hosts description of the event was entirely accurate.  However, the show did give me incentive to find a nice article on the latest privacy setting and to check my account.

Ars Technica has a nice article by Jacqui Cheng, An updated guide to Facebook privacy: December 2009 edition which gives more information on the latest (as of December 2009) privacy changes. 

One of the best things I learned was how to divide your friends into lists.  As the article mentions this was possible before, but the new changes makes lists much more powerful and potentially secure.  Because now you can assign different permissions to these lists.  According to the article, this ability is because “Facebook now considers your name, profile picture, city, gender, and friends ‘publicly available information,’ so anyone who finds you on Facebook can see who you associate with, even if you otherwise hide your info from non-friends.”

For example, I have noticed that as more of my family and friends are jumping on the Facebook (my mom just got an account over Christmas) there are more and more librarians that are friending me on Facebook.  Some of these librarians I know well, some I have met once or twice, some I know by name only, and other I have never known before.   I want to use Facebook to network and discuss library topics (less formally than other areas) but I also use Facebook to keep in touch with my cousins in Virginia and friends elsewhere.   The library people most likely don’t want to hear about my trials and tribulations of potty training my three year old.  Additionally my family and friends think controlled vocabulary is what you do when little ears are around. 

Using lists I can put all of my library friends in one list and all of my family and friends in another or both.  Now with Facebook’s new privacy settings I can change my posting permissions, which means I can post one thing to be seen by librarians, one thing to be seen by family, or something that can be seen by all.  The same can be done for pictures, everything in your Profile Information and Contact Information.

It is always a good idea to check out the privacy settings on your FB account regardless of whether you are more public or private.  Don’t forget to check out your permissions and privacy settings for what your friends can share about you through applications and websites.

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