Tag: privacy

Why do Facebook’s privacy settings suck so much?

Simple answer? They want it to.

Think about it. There’s a line that keeps popping up regarding Facebook (and yes, it applies to Google and a bunch of others as well, but Facebook is the subject today):

If you’re not paying for it , you’re the product.

We all know that Facebook is supposed to be worth something like eleventy-billion dollars. Why? It’s not because they show lots of ads and make money from that (although I’m sure they do). It’s because they provide advertisers and marketers with the exact sets of eyeballs that they want to reach. And how do they know exactly who to include? Because we give them that information freely. If we could easily set Facebook’s privacy settings so that they couldn’t share that information out, they’d be out of business. So they make sure that to block it all out, we need to go all over their pages to ferret out every last little setting. It’s also why everything they do rolls out to everyone and then you need to opt out of it.

This most recent change to Facebook’s UI? I’d be willing to bet that it’s similarly designed to gather more information about who you are to marketers. It makes you categorize your friends to identify who you want to hear from more frequently… certainly seems to appeal to marketers. And the impending launch of Timeline? Making it feel like you need to share <i>everything</i> on Facebook? Sounds like exactly the sort of thing a marketer would want.

Lots of people worry about Google and being evil. I don’t. I worry about the massive data store Facebook is building and how to control what they do with it.


Why I Don’t Trust Facebook (And What I’ve Done About It)

You may have heard that Facebook is contemplating yet another set of changes to their privacy policy. The part that concerns me most is that they will extend your Facebook login to pre-announce you to other sites when you visit them. So, if you visit Yelp after logging in to Facebook, Yelp can read your Facebook login and recognize you without you having to log in to Yelp. On the face of it, it seems pretty cool – and I can certainly see the utility of it.

But here’s the catch. I never authorized Facebook to give that information. In fact, they’ve been pretty much told not to – between opting out of Beacon and being told not to include my information. I’m reading this as “even though you told us not to share your information, we’re going to anyways with this group of trusted third party sites.” In this case, I imagine “trusted” means “well-paying.” Certainly, I can opt out of this sharing – and I have. But who’s to say that, 6 months from now, Facebook will offer a tier of even more trusted third party sites access to my information? I’d really like it if Facebook would stop trying to figure out ways around their own privacy policy.

I understand that this is how Facebook makes money. I don’t begrudge them that. When it comes down to it, it’s how Google makes their money too. And Google has certainly had their share of privacy fiascoes – Buzz being the latest. The difference is, overall, I trust Google to handle my information. When they screw up, it doesn’t come across as malicious, just bumbling. I don’t get the same vibe from Facebook – see Beacon for the most glaring example.

So, what can we do? Well, the easiest way is to just close out your Facebook account and not use their service. However, I do like the convenience of their service and the fact that most of my friends are on there makes it very convenient. What I’ve done (after updating my privacy settings, of course) was to move Facebook to its own browser. In this case, I used Prism, which comes out of Mozilla and Firefox. Prism is a single site browser – it can be configured to only go to one site, like Facebook. There are other options, of course – the Fluid browser on Mac, for example. I chose Prism because it maintains a separate collection of cookies from the other browsers. Fluid shares cookies with Safari. With the purpose I have in mind, shared cookies defeats the whole point.

Now Facebook lives in its own little world. And all is okay, until the next time they decide to expand their reach.