It’s been just recently that Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Eric Schmidt of Google both gave their own versions of how the idea of privacy on the Internet was so 20th century. Facebook has faced the music of some serious backlash to their “everything is public stance and just in the past week there has been a considerable amount of controversy surrounding Google Buzz and its own privacy concerns. Google got the official word that they pushed the envelope just far enough to generate the first class action lawsuit about the service by some circling buzzard or a lawyer (Get it? Buzz-ard.)
Since Facebook has been under the microscope longer they are getting more advanced in their “return to privacy”. The Facebook blog announced yesterday that there are new controls that are much more granular as it relates to how you share information through Facebook applications.
There are now granular privacy options that enable you to personalize the audience for each piece of content you share through applications. Simply select the group of people you want to share with from the drop-down menu near the lock icon on the Publisher on your home page or profile, or the prompts that appear when you share from applications or Facebook Connect websites.
Got something that might make your friends laugh but would appall those annoying family members you are connected to on Facebook? Below is a look at how you can keep the information “regionalized’ by sharing only with those that would laugh rather than faint at your exploits.
This is definitely a step in a better direction as it applies to controlling your information that you share on Facebook. Of course, the vast majority of Facebook users never read the Facebook blog, pay little attention to notifications and are likely to not even know that this option exists.
Don’t think that the Facebook crew isn’t banking on this. They want everything to be as shared as possible. It makes their service more marketable to advertisers and the like. This looks like a classic case of Facebook doing a little CYA so they can say that they offer these privacy options but they can’t control if a user actually uses them. Of course, if that user is just oblivious to the options that’s all the better for Facebook. It’s the “Hey, we warned them!” defense and it’ll probably work.
The blog continues
These new controls give you the power to determine who sees the content you post to Facebook through any third-party application, whether it is on Facebook.com, your desktop, mobile phone, or from a Facebook Connect website or service. Seesmic, a desktop application from which you can view and update your News Feed, will soon offer extended privacy options so you can specify audiences for each update you make from the application, such as uploaded photos and status updates.
The one line in the post that really was interesting was the following in which the word “may” plays a prominent role.
You may also start to see additional prompts in applications asking if you’d like to set privacy for certain pieces of content that differ from your default setting. Whether you choose to keep your default setting on everything you share or change the audience for different pieces of content, the choice is yours.
I wonder how long it takes the Facebook employees to get these posts through legal? I know I am a skeptic on these issues but I think it is the safe way to go. The more that is public for Facebook and Google the better so they need to ride the fine line of making sure options exist but not much more. These are going to be fine print matters in T&C’s and know how much everyone pays attention to those in this day and age.
These privacy matters aren’t going to go away and the cat and mouse game between these social networks and their users has a long way to go to be sorted out. Since, in many cases, the two sides are diametrically opposed this will be an interesting battle.