Do Facebook’s New Privacy Settings Really Protect Your Privacy?

As Long as Users Are Comfortable, Facebook and Businesses Will Benefit

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Facebook has introduced its latest changes to privacy settings, to appease disgruntled users who have been somewhere within the range of mildly irritated to outraged over the previous incarnation. The company is getting numerous pats on the back, or at least "that’s more like it" responses from people for the most part (there are some who still aren’t satisfied).

Do you like the latest approach Facebook is taking to privacy? Tell us what you think.

While the settings do address the main concerns that have been so widely discussed and publicized since the launch of Facebook’s Open Graph/instant personalization initiative, no privacy settings are truly going to protect people’s privacy on Facebook – and that’s not Facebook’s fault. I would blame a combination of human nature and technology.

Look how easy it is for someone to whip out a camera, take you picture, and post it to Facebook. You didn't have an account? That doesn't mean you have privacy on Facebook. If you’re worried about privacy and how it is related to Facebook, it really doesn’t matter how many times Facebook adjusts its privacy settings. The fact of the matter is that there is no more privacy, unless you don’t interact with people whatsoever. This applies whether you have a Facebook account or not. That really makes no difference if someone whips out their phone and takes a picture of you. With most modern phones, all they have to do is tap a button to send it right to Facebook for all of their friends to see. Did you say or do something embarrassing at a party? Witnesses can easily become instant broadcasters, and there’s a good chance that some of their Facebook friends know you. 

Did you casually mention something to a friend? Anything? They may mention it in a status update and instantly let all of their friends know about it. Whether or not they did this with any malicious intent is irrelevant. It happens. Human contact in general should be considered non-private. If you say or do anything that you truly want kept private, you better keep it to yourself or let people know you don’t want others to know about it (and hope that they care).

Facebook is really just an extension of the web itself, when it comes to privacy. The same rules apply to YouTube, MySpace, Twitter, blogs, or any other platforms where users can communicate to the public (or even to a closed network).

The privacy issues that exist now have existed the entire time the web has been around. It’s only the pace of sharing, which has accelerated. Years ago, someone could have easily created a website about you if they knew how to create a website at all. Status updates and blog posts are just easier. Smartphones make them almost like a reflex for some people – and the smartphone market continues to grow rapidly.

Mark Zuckerberg has taken a lot of flack over the privacy concerns that have arisen around Facebook of late, as well as his own stance on privacy in general, but no matter how much Facebook or any other social networking entity on the web tweaks its privacy, your privacy will never truly be ensured – unless you hide from society completely.

There are pros and cons to the manner in which technology evolves (and continues to do so). Regardless of your stance on privacy, it’s pretty clear that things aren’t going to be slowing down anytime soon, and a decreased sense of privacy is simply a side effect.

Who’s getting excited about Facebook readying location features? 

Facebook Privacy and Business

Apart from the grand scheme of things, Facebook’s new settings should make some users more comfortable, and the more comfortable Facebook users are the better off Facebook and anyone who considers it a significant part of their business strategy will be.

"What these privacy advocates don’t get is that Facebook, like Google, isn’t free," says SeeWhy Founder Charles Nicholls, who has written about the subject. "It’s a massive service that needs to be paid for, and that service is going to be funded by a multi-billion dollar advertising business, just as Google is. This is the price you pay for using a ‘free’ service. Facebook ‘Like’ is central to this strategy and equally important for ecommerce."

Many (myself included) have speculated that Facebook’s Open Graph could lead to the company launching an AdSense-like product down the line, with the ability to target users all over the web based on their personal interests. It could be very powerful. Mark Zuckerberg’s response to the notion that any of the company’s recent moves are geared toward advertising (via VentureBeat):

There is also this idea going around that if people share information openly that we can use it better for ad targeting. But advertisers don’t get any information from the system. We don’t give your information to them. We target all the ads ourselves. And it doesn’t matter who you’re sharing with, whether it’s your friends or the public. It doesn’t affect the ads at all.

Does that change anything? Couldn’t an AdSense-like product still work without the advertisers getting personal information from users and letting Facebook do the targetintg?

Regardless of whether or not such an ad network is ever actually released, e-commerce businesses have a lot to gain from Facebook’s Open Graph.

"From an ecommerce point of view, what’s not to like here?" asks Nicholls. "It’s now really easy for your visitors to share what they like on your website with their friends, without so much as a login. The ease of use and simplicity of the ‘Like’ button makes it a sure-fire hit, as long as users can get comfortable with privacy."

Comfort or no comfort from users, the Open Graph is definitely a hit with businesses, and judging from all the "liking", "recommending", etc. going on around the web, privacy may really not be as big of a concern among general users as it has been made out to be in the media.

If you have anything to contribute to this conversation, please do so in the comments.

Do Facebook’s New Privacy Settings Really Protect Your Privacy?
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  • http://crikeycleaner.com.au Carpet Cleaning Tweed Heads

    Look – to be honest there is only so much you can do to protect people against themselves.

    I recently watched an interview regarding issues that may result from privacy settings or the lack of them and it was suggested that you should treat your online activity the same as you do your front door “Don’t open it to those you don’t know”

    Whilst this is sound advice I also think that with any of these social sites full privacy must be set as the default in order to proctect those that simply are unable to comprehend the ramifications.

    In addition these settings should not be “one click” changeable – Clear Warning pop ups which the user has to read and confirm would also be a good idea.

    Okay it’s not going to solve all the problems but it may at least raise concern

  • http://www.hghpills.org/ HGH

    I think it will protect people privacy with some limit

  • http://www.websitetemplates.bz Website Templates.bz

    I heard about these new Facebook things, and I honestly dobt that something would happen.

    Probably if Facebook still decides to take $3 charge monthly- there would b good protection, otherwise- Is till think theer would be lots of spam(((

  • Tez

    I still don’t understand why people are moaning so much about facebook‘s privacy controls – of all the social networks facebook probably have some of the most comprehensive privacy controls, allowing you to show (or hide) certain parts of your activities and profile to just friends, groups of friends, networks or the entire world.

    If you don’t want people to see something, don’t post it! or atleast take the responsibility to use the privacy controls that Facebook provide to hide from the people you don’t want to see your post instead of taking the easiest option and blaming Facebook.

    Facebook and the web today for that matter is no different from your REAL every day life, if you don’t want someone to hear what you say you either don’t say it or you refrain from saying it infront of them or anyone who might repeat it to them (e.g.hide it) – the same goes for Facebook.

    People need to wake up to the new ways of the web – the web isn’t anonymous anymore – if you post or say something you have to take responsibility for it.

    What are people doing on facebook that they are SOOOOO concerned about privacy anyway? if it’s that sensitive, why put it on the web? And if it is THAT sensitve and you want to share it only with certain people then take the responsibility to use the pirvacy controls provided to hide it from whoever you don’t want to see it.

    • Guest

      What privacy. They use your surname and you can not remove it. A stalkers paradise all they have to do is pick up a phone book for the city u live in and your found. I wouldnt have used my legit name if id known they would give me no alternative. I really like facebook and all my friends use it which is only reason i havent closed my account.

      • http://vangie.amazingwebmall.com/ Vangie

        There is the option of having your number as UNLISTED with the phonbook.
        That takes care of that situation of others finding your number using a phonebook :)
        Done deal ~ no more issue there.
        Any other issues?
        Or do you just need to vent about something, and this seemed like a good way to get it done?
        That’s why I started my blog, it lets me vent, and not tick anyone off, cause it’s on my blog and I can say what I want…
        I hope your life gets better for you, and you get the chance to smile a bit.

    • http://ePalmSpringsRealEstate.com Abraham

      Amen to that.

  • http://texxsmith.com texxs

    no privacy settings are truly going to protect people’s privacy on Facebook = B.S.

    The fact of the matter is that there is no more privacy, unless you don’t interact with people whatsoever. = blatant propoganda

    • Chris Crum

      Propaganda? How so? You can set all of your privacy settings to be as strict as possible, but another Facebook user can still easily upload a picture/video of you for everyone to see, if they’re settings are more open. You may be able to have a say in the tagging, but if any of that person’s friends know you, it hardly makes a difference. I’m all for increased control over privacy settings, but I just don’t think you can truly control privacy completely.

  • Guest

    News Flash People – do not post anything you don’t want public. Facebook is a “Social” network site, not a safe deposit box to keep your most private and secret concerns and accomplishments.

  • http://www.folkdirect.com PeteF

    I moved to www.folkdirect.com a couple of weeks ago after seeing them in the Huffington Post as a recommended alternative to Facebook. Everything’s fine thus far – much better privacy controls (it’s open and honest about them all) and a nice community’s building there. Definitely worth trying. Facebook’s had its day.

  • http://www.nowellsheating.com Litchfield, Illinois HVAC Contractor

    I signed up for facebook a few months ago, and I have not noticed any major privacy violations. I am only concerned with my personal contact info. being shared. The second that strange companies start flooding my mailbox, Email, or phone with unsolicited ads, I will surely delete my Facebook account.

    • Tez

      Why are your contact details open for the public to see? Why don’t you just hide them from the ‘spammers’? More the the point why are you putting your phone number on there in the first place?

  • http://www.bierpens.co.za Bierpens

    any one person can create as many profiles as he/she wishes. there is no control on people bashing … long hard legal battle will have to be instituted against facebook to find a single person with many identities stalking a persons friends list and sneaking shitty information into his/her close friends. People are getting divorced over this shit and I am still awaiting facebook to respond … this will be limited with one little confirmation … is the subscriber a real person … one credit card transaction … $1.00

    Face book as no more than half the subscribers they claim .. the rest is fake ID’s … proof me wrong … please ..

    • Guest

      I have to agree with your one point…how FB can claim how many “real” unique users is lame as it can be…with not few but 100’s of thousands probably or more fake or not real profiles..you can sa search a celebrity by name and may get 5 to 10 or more profiles…or see profiles using photo’s you even recognize as a celebrity being use by some one with some other name…and BTW using FB’s reporting system is also a dangerous thing to do because I know users who were deleted not long after they reported valid complaints or send in complaints..

  • Guest

    The lesson that nobody ever seems to learn is that when personal information is entered in a personal computer with access to the Internet, someone somewhere will always figure out a way to make use of it. That is a fact that no one can overcome. There is no ultimate security in electronic communication… in any form… no matter what the myriad of “security experts” claim.

    • http://www.miraclebabyblog.com omo

      yes you are very correct, once you personal information is entered into the net with internet connection, there is no way it can not be overcome by some users, security is over rated.

  • http://www.giftbasketventures.com Tomi Haynes

    People complained, Facebook listened and are trying to do what they can. Most everyone on Facebook are adults. Don’t put the information you don’t want people to know on your sights. That is your choice or don’t sign up for Social Media Sight period.

    Now if we can get Facebook to stop the hackers that come on their site and fix all the other bugs.

  • http://www.body-rockin.com Body-Rockin.com

    As some have already commented once you get on line and start sharing your info either with a e-commerce site or social site..if you give them info you don’t want shared…then you need to be ready to live with the consequences.

    Any one who truly believe sites that exist and make their money solely by their free user base to fuel their business and marketing is not really seeing the true picture if you think those sites will ever do more than what users think they are doing to protect their privacy, dream on!

    Social networks are “collectors” what they collect is users they can market to advertisers and advertisers need info on users before they pay big money..FB’s owner is already a under 30 year old billionaire, how you think he got to be one?

    • Guest

      Social sites are not the biggest threat to your online privacy..people search sites and those back ground checker sites far as I am concerned more dangerous than any social network.and Google..why you here so many people say “google” me..?

      Search your name on any of the leading people search or back ground checker site, even the info they display for free search gives more info on you than you had no idea was online and just for any one to pull up..

  • http://facebookprotest.com Facebook Protest about privacy policies


    Facebook Protest. On June 6th we are asking those who disagree with the changes Facebook has made to its privacy policies to commit to not logging in or interacting with Facebook in any way.

  • http://www.familytreeprojects.com Betty

    I think making the privacy settings easier is great for those who wants the appearance of security.

    But, let’s face it. If you put something on the internet, in email, etc., it has a high chance of becoming public. If you want something to be private, don’t put it in any social networking site, in any email, etc. Keep those things offline.

    I really like the Like Button and want to know what my friends Like so I can check those things out. I also like the autofill on popups on some sites.

    Facebook is about sharing. I think most of the uproar has been caused by a few security geeks and a lot of journalist who have nothing else to write about. I really hope Facebook is strong enough to keep everything open.

  • http://www.marktion.com Ivan

    Finally a step forward when fb’s privacy is concerned…

    Fb needs to inform users when they make changes that may concern them
    (e.g. the personalization), so users can decide whether they want to share their
    information with advertisers and other websites or not.

  • Guest

    I can’t trust them anymore 3 times they reset my settings without a warning!!!

  • http://www.herbal-supplements-tricajus.com tricajus

    My opinion is the moment you get yourself involved into any online social media activites, you should be prepared for any security leakages that can happened anytime. I tend to agree with most posters views that should anyone be so secretive about their personal matters then don’t sign up, don’t join social groups, don’t post things you don’t want seen or read.

  • http://www.miraclebabyblog.com omo

    what we all don’t get is that face book, is not the issue here we are, face book is a social networking site, they willl do any thing to get as much users as possible, your or our security is the lest of their worries, if they give you the kind of security you are asking for they will be out of business, it a business to them, you get every thing from them for free, yet they connect you to the world, what do expect, if you don’t like their policies than don’t join or better still you don’t have to load your life into a shared space given, believing face book for security is liking believing you are invisible.
    Face book is for “social” net working not “private” networking, your security is in your hands not in the hands of face book

  • Joe

    There is a man from the United Kingdom that shows his picture totally naked except for the erection he has with a scarf draped over it. He claims he is an actor. He states he is horney and looking for hot babes. How do things like this slip through? I will not give his race because I will be labeled a racist. This man comes off like he is God’s gift to women.

  • http://www.writtenbysumer.com/blog Britt

    I definitely think the new Facebook privacy settings have improved–however, I wouldn’t consider them the ideal privacy solution. They still need to keep working on it. Also, no one should be posting information they don’t want public. It’s not a protected website such as a bank website.

  • http://www.Tracey-Keefer.com Tracey Keefer

    I don’t get it. I am glad FB made the privacy settings easier for most to use, but personally I have always appreciated the fact that I can control the privacy settings on such a granular level. Open graph is way cool and will change ones experience on the internet making it personal. NO INFO is shared with the site owner, it just interfaces with FB and only if you are signed into FB at the same time!

    I think the big to-do was due to a lack of understanding of how things really work.

    Could this lead to an adword from FB could be, they have the most targeted advertising for the best price going right now!

    “Dream, Believe, Become…”

  • http://vangie.amazingwebmall.com/ Vangie

    Apoligy to Facebook is in order…
    OK, I admit that when I came across the message about Facebook letting everyone have personal information about a user, I myself got pretty upset about it!
    Until I came across this info, ~http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/2010/05/26/do-you-think-these-new-facebook-privacy-settings-really-protect-your-privacy~ and got to thinking about the Internet!
    I’ve heard and do agree that with all that is going on within the Internet a persons whole life can be found out by just about anybody else who is looking for the info. just by them doing a few cicks.
    Everyone, including myself, should get real about this!
    FACT: the only way one is to not have their information out there, online, is to never get on it in the first place.
    If you put yourself online knowing what is out their, then you should also realize that you can be found out about!
    Don’t want the possability of that to happen? Then don’t go online!
    It’s like the world we live in today, anything can happen.
    When one goes to the store then there is the possability of any number of things happening to them.
    If you don’t want to take the risk, then don’t go to the store!
    It’s just that simple, remember, ACH!
    In all the things that make up the day to day life in the world we live in at this time, Anything Can Happen!

  • http://www.mhtechno.co.cc/vip/ ipcity

    thanks for the topic bro.

    But i don’t think so. it gives you options but not so privacy!

    this is my sites for arabic english speakers.




  • http://www.cluey.com.au SEO Copywriter

    I totally get that most people probably don’t want to get stalked … online or anywhere else.
    But there is a totally simple solution people.
    If your information and images are sufficiently private to warrant protection … don’t post them online!

  • Alan

    After reading about privacy concerns I checked my settings. I didn’t like what I saw.

    In addition, many of us use FB for business. However it makes life difficult unless you create multiple accounts. I don’t want potential business contacts seeing my fishing pics etc.

    In the end I decided I couldn’t be bothered to keep ‘on top’ of all settings and changes and just deleted my account. Even that was made difficult, with the option of “deactivating” rather than deleting. Happily I found a blog about how to actually delete, though you have to wait 14 days and they’ll ignore your request if you log in at all during that time.

    Ironically enough I’m a great believer in less privacy. We’d see vastly less spam, rude comments and general misbehavior on the net if people had to give their real names. However without creating multple accounts I just can’t be bothered to use Facebook (and can’t be bothered to keep hopping from one account to another anyway).

    Basically the whole privacy thing made me stop and ask “Why am I a member of this thing anyway?” Sharing pics with my family abroad was about the only reason, so I opened a Flickr account.

  • http://www.buywebcam.org Grace Keane

    This is the main reason why more and more facebook users are quitting the social networking site. Most of them don’t feel the privacy that facebook had set.

  • Cath

    The main issue with all of Facebook’s changes is they are all opt-out, if any of the recent changes had come in with opt-out so that users weren’t displaying what they consider private information by default there wouldn’t have been half the backlash. Facebook needs to respect it’s users more – it’s all very well setting up simpler controls but if they continue to roll out changes that expect people to opt-out rather than in they’re going to be seeing these problems all over again.

  • http://www.spycameradepot.com/ SpyCameraSecurityGuy

    I agree that if you post anything for public viewing online, be careful, because no mater what security measures have been taken someone will always try to find a way to get past them.

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