Here’s the visual version, showing the recent expansion of information not only to your friends, but to your networks, to all of Facebook, and to the entire Internet.
The good news is, Facebook won’t be doing much more to undermine your privacy — because they’ve already decided to show just about everything to just about everybody.
The graphic is a representation of the information from this EFF article. Wired has more generalized discussion of the issues with Facebook, and Business Insider gives 10 Reasons to Delete Your Facebook Account. If you decide to do that, though, read this, because Facebook uses just about every trick short of outright lying to prevent you from actually deleting your account.
I’ve never given Facebook much private information; the furthest I went was to list my schools and graduation years, my marital status, and a few interests, none of which are particular secrets. But Facebook, unlike (say) LJ, allows for — sorry, let’s update our terms, is actively taking steps to facilitate — organized mining of that data. This bothers me on three fronts.
First, I can control what data I post about myself, but I can’t control what data my friends post about me. And while this is true of the Internet in general, on Facebook, any photo tagged with my name is automatically and unambiguously connected to me, in a way that I cannot avoid. Also, changes have made it such that I’m not just sharing that info with friends, and with Facebook-the-company, but with everybody who develops an application for them. Do I trust all of those people?
Second, this is a cynical violation of the principles on which Facebook was founded. After years of saying your information would be private, visible only to friends (thus encouraging you to submit a lot of it — after all, isn’t the point of the service to share news with your friends?), now the founder is claiming that our society’s privacy standards have changed and he’s just keeping up with the times. We all totally want to live our lives in public on the Internet, right?
Third — most offensively — this is opt-out, not opt-in. Facebook did not ask me, “would you like to share these pieces of information by connecting them to these public pages?” It said, “You’re now going to share all of this! Or you can pick individually.” And then I had to manually deselect every single item, because I didn’t get a “no, thanks” option. Given the way Facebook has implemented changes, I have no certainty at all that I’ve successfully kept myself out of that loop, because they bury the “stay private” options as deeply as they can — when they even provide them. Sometimes the only way to stay clear is to completely delete information about yourself: you can no longer have private “likes.” You either have them, and they’re auto-linked to public pages, or you leave them blank. So much for sharing private info with friends. To use the service now is to use it for all the Internet to see.
Which is faintly annoying when it’s just a matter of me listing, oh, music as a hobby. But what if you’ve listed “gay marriage rights”? Or “abortion rights”? Or something else politically sensitive? Now your activism is visible to your boss (who maybe voted Yes on 8), and to people who maybe like harassing activists like you.
There are more details in the articles I’ve linked, but those are enough for me. The value I get from Facebook is marginal: yeah, I’ve connected to old friends from high school, etc, but we’ve done nothing more than connect; I haven’t struck up conversations with them. The signal-to-noise ratio of my news feed is so abysmal I don’t even bother reading it most of the time. I hate the layout of the service, and as for the applications, they’re time-wasters I really, really don’t need.
And I don’t feel like continuing to patronize a service that behaves this badly, even if the actual damage to me is likewise marginal.