Facebook Privacy: Everything You Need to Know in 6 Minutes

Remember earlier this year when the media was dominated by coverage of Facebook’s privacy policies? Everyone was up in arms, condemning the company for exposing user information as a result of launching the Open Graph and Instant Personalization initiatives at the company’s f8 conference.

Following weeks of debate, the company announced new features to address the criticism that emerged. CEO Mark Zuckerberg — who wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post promising new privacy options — introduced a host of changes to the network that enable users to better control their privacy settings. “We made a lot of changes at the same time,” Zuckerberg said regarding his company’s f8 announcements of the Open Graph API and other new Facebook features. “A lot of what we were trying to do got lost. We really need to simplify the controls… The feedback we got from users really resonated with us.”

I guess the “simplify” meme really did have an effect, since Facebook’s new privacy controls are dead easy, as simple as a single button-click for restricting or sharing all your information — including your posts, photos, birthday, and contact information.

The media became bored with the story, and eventually it fell off the radar. But the average Facebook user still has no idea what he agrees to when he joins Facebook and clicks the Sign Up button with this caveat: “By clicking Sign Up, you are indicating that you have read and agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy”.

Did you know that Facebook’s privacy policy is longer than the U.S. Constitution? This and many other interesting facts are covered in a great video by Casey Neistat. Casey and his brother Van star in HBO’s The Neistat Brothers; they gained attention (and millions of online views) with short films like “iPod’s Dirty Secret” and “Bike Thief”, among others. Casey’s amazingly good video is a must-watch for anyone who’s on Facebook and anyone who was aware of the privacy flap but really didn’t understand what all the fuss was about — it’s a great 6-minute primer about how Facebook privacy really works.

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Facebook CEO Bares All, Embraces New Privacy Settings

While privacy gurus, security firms, and users try to decipher the implications of Facebook’s new privacy settings, at least one person is embracing them: Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.


Zuckerberg, who is usually extremely private, has opened up his profile so that anyone can see his wall, events, and photos. And what’s in the CEO’s profile? His photo album is pretty benign; Valleywag has posted their favorite images. It appears that he’s a fan of the Killers, The West Wing, and Taylor Swift. And his wall shows he actively uses Facebook’s “like” and commenting features.

Nothing has the potential to irritate the legions of Facebook users quite like a mammoth site update. Facebook says the new privacy settings make it easier to control the information users share (even though it’s really about increasing traffic and visibility). The reaction to the privacy changes was mixed. Zuckerberg’s blog post got the thumbs up from over 48,000 users, and the comments section of the Facebook blog was loaded with praise for the new rules. But there was also a lot of complaining and a brewing backlash. Instead of being thankful for having more control, most users are just confused by the changes. Those who aren’t confused are angry — or an unfortunate combination of both confused and angry.

(Remember when Facebook rolled out a minor redesign of its status feed in October? Lots of Facebook users were pretty angry then, too.)

TrueSlant’s report suggests that Zuckerberg doesn’t understand the new settings, which is highly unlikely. It’s more plausible that he’s trying to show everyone else that there’s no harm in opening up. He would certainly look hypocritical if he kept his profile limited to his friends. So opening up his profile was a smart, premeditated move — he’s leading by example. But it’s not likely to sway Facebook users who are skeptical that openness is in their best interests.

Have you adjusted your privacy settings? Do you think Zuckerberg’s move will convince Facebook users to open up? Please leave a comment!

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