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Facebook and Privacy

Written on May 17, 2010

I recently deleted my Facebook profile. I think I updated my status twice in three years, and made little or no effort to solicit friends, but I did read the front page, and sent an occasional message. The overt service was moderately neat, and I liked being able to see what others where doing, if they decided to post. That said, the continued erosion of privacy settings, and the ultimate fact that I was Facebook’s product – me and my relationships are what they are selling – was finally enough to me to get out.

Dana Boyd’s recent post brings up a few good points, but one that particularly resonates is that Facebook’s interface did not make it clear what you are giving away by using the site.

I think that they way to address this is to have a tabbed screen preview of your profile and activities, where each tab is a sharing constellation – 3rd party API users, friends, friends-of-friends, everyone – and you could tune your profile by excluding classes of information to those constellations, and see who comprises those groups at the same time. You could click on the friends-of-friends tab and see, perhaps to your horror, what you are sharing with your mom’s coworkers, and who they are in a neat, sortable list.

I would still be a Facebook user if I could click on the API tab and turn it off, click on the Everyone tab and turn off everything but my name and profile picture, etc. But I can’t and because I can’t see what I’m sharing, Facebook seems to think I don’t care, and they’re wrong.

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