Facebook Answers Privacy Critics

7th Oct, 2010

Over the last year Facebook has been heavily criticised over its privacy settings. It has been one major chink in the armor of Facebook and something a competitor could easily exploit. However, last night Facebook announced several changes in their service that seek to answer critics once and for all. The first is a new groups setting, which is entirely different to the old ‘groups’ setting in everything but name. This allows groups of people share information privately. The second is a new dashboard that will tell you when applications have accessed your information and the third change is a new ‘download your information’ tool, allowing you to download everything you have on the site.

The New Groups

I call it the new groups, as it shouldn’t be mixed up with the old groups. Old groups are a profile type – there’s three if you can remember personal profile, page and group. The new group setting is to replicate groups of people off-Facebook. So you can have a group for close friends, family, work colleagues, fantasy football league etc. Members can participate in shared activities such as group chat, email and photo tagging. Groups can be open or closed and will be run by its members, the max amount of which is 250 people. The most used groups on your profile will be available through the left navigation bar.

It’s an interesting move that I know many people have wanted for ages. A simple way of bringing groups of their connections together without having to share information with everyone. Facebook have also produced a mobile interface and an Open Graph API for groups which makes this even more intriguing as groups could appear anywhere. For users the benefits are clear, and Facebook believe Groups will be huge. It will build closed environments within Facebook where they feel comfortable to share information. Will it cause a shift of people from using the ‘wall’ to only using their closed group or circle of friends? This would leaving the wall as a space for acquaintances and marketing messages, which would be less appealing for users to read through as they know they can access the most important information to them from a group.

It also opens up the possibility of reaching these groups via Facebook Ad’s. This may prove attractive for advertisers. Imagine your promoting special offer in a sports shop on trainers, and now you could target all the sports related groups in your area. Now targeting people based on shared activities rather than just their demographic or geographic information.

The New Dashboard

The new dashboard will allow you to view what applications have accessed your personal information, when they last did so and it gives yo the option of restricting data available to it or removing that application completely. This will roll out under your privacy settings in the coming weeks.

Download Your Information

What have you posted to Facebook that is accessible by others? For example do you know of Facebook Phonebook? You can access your friends contact numbers from here. Is this an invasion of privacy? Not really the information has been available on your info tab all along because you have included your mobile number on your profile at some stage. Simple rule is if you don’t want to, or feel uncomfortable, sharing that kind of information then certainly don’t give it to Facebook.

But what else have you shared with Facebook that you might have forgotten about? After years of being on Facebook it’s hard to keep track of exactly what is up there. Now you can download all the information you have shared with Facebook. The one click download will be available under account settings shortly, and will give you “all your correspondences with friends: your messages, Wall posts, photos, status updates and profile information