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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Google Went “Code Red” to Save Google Buzz

Here’s the story of how panicking just enough may have saved Google’s answer to Facebook and Twitter.

Last week, Google launched an add-on to Gmail called Google Buzz. Almost immediately, the world howled with complaints that the product exposed users’ privacy by publishing lists of followers made up of the people a user e-mailed and chatted with most.

This made Google Buzz a danger zone for reporters, cheating spouses, mental health professionals, and anyone else who didn’t want to tell the world who they e-mailed or chatted with most.

But since this early failing, Google employees — specifically VP of product Bradley Horowitz and Buzz product manager Todd Jackson — have done a rousing job answering criticism from users and the media with rapid-fire updates to the product.

It wasn’t easy.

Horowitz and Jackson’s first move was to set up a  “War Room” for Buzz, where engineers and product managers could plot and push immediate changes to the product. Then, on Friday, the team took questions at a company-wide meeting with Google employees. With that feedback, Jackson pushed Buzz into “Code Red” starting on Saturday so that all updates to Buzz code would push as soon as possible.

With the proverbial alarm bells ringing, Buzz team members decided to stay at Google until the product was fixed. A Google spokesperson said, “Some of them [were here] straight through Friday and Saturday nights and through late Sunday, making changes.” A bunch of Googlers actually slept two nights in a row at the Googleplex.

A week after the complaints, Google corrected all the privacy flaws. Back in 2007, it took Facebook a month to figure its way out of the Beacon privacy mess.

Here’s the Google Buzz timeline:

(via Silicon Alley Insider)

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Facebook’s Zuckerberg: Privacy No Longer a “Social Norm”


In an interview with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said that he had done an “about face” on privacy and argued that it is no longer a “social norm”. The 25-year-old Facebook entrepreneur was speaking at TechCrunch’s ‘Crunchie’ awards in San Francisco over the weekend.

Zuckerberg’s privacy stance dovetails with the recent dubious changes to Facebook’s privacy settings, which made more personal information public and reduced users’ control over their personal data. (The Electronic Privacy Information Center asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into the changes Facebook made to the privacy settings and to force Facebook to restore its old privacy protections.)

Claiming that online users have adapted to sharing information online via blogs and other social media, Zuckerberg said that “if he had created Facebook today, as opposed to several years ago, he would have made user information public, not private, by default as it was for years until the company changed dramatically in December,” ReadWriteWeb reports.

Here’s the portion of the interview in which he discusses his views on privacy, transcribed by ReadWriteWeb. In response to the question, “Where is privacy on the Web going?”, Zuckerberg says:

“When I got started in my dorm room at Harvard, the question a lot of people asked was ‘why would I want to put any information on the Internet at all? Why would I want to have a website?’

“And then in the last 5 or 6 years, blogging has taken off in a huge way and all these different services that have people sharing all this information. People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.

“We view it as our role in the system to constantly be innovating and be updating what our system is to reflect what the current social norms are.

“A lot of companies would be trapped by the conventions and their legacies of what they’ve built, doing a privacy change – doing a privacy change for 350 million users is not the kind of thing that a lot of companies would do. But we viewed that as a really important thing, to always keep a beginner’s mind and what would we do if we were starting the company now and we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it.”

Watch TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington’s six-minute interview with Zuckerberg in the video below, and read more in ReadWriteWeb’s excellent piece on the implications of Zuckerberg’s position on privacy on ReadWriteWeb — the quote about privacy is from 3:00 to 4:00.

Is Zuckerberg right about changing attitudes toward online privacy? Do you expect a degree of privacy on social networks? Do you think becoming more public will help or hurt Facebook?

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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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