Facebook’s Privacy Settings – What’s the Real Issue?

Everyone’s up in arms about Facebook’s default privacy settings, but that leaves me a little perplexed. Default settings are just an option, they’re not a requirement. Much the same way when you install software – there are default installations and custom installations. If you install the default you can rest assured that you’re going to get some bloatware, or erroneous copies installed in places you can never remove, or something that otherwise benefits the software creator, more than you, the consumer. So, why should Facebook be held to different standards?

In my opinion the real issue is the complexity of making the best custom setting decisions. For folks who aren’t addicted to the interwebz there’s a real danger that they’ll end up with profiles that are more open than they intended. I’ve seen my dad try to work the VCR–this is way more complicated and much less gratifying. I heard one commentator liken Facebook’s options to a airplane’s dashboard (apologies, I can’t remember who said it…) and it’s true. So many nobbies and options, it’s easy to get mixed up.

Perhaps the solution is to offer a few levels of default/customization, much like the Internet Options on Internet Explorer. You know, where you have a slidebar where you go from high security to lower, and then IE makes some assumptions based on your preferences (screenshot, below). Facebook could have the same – from super open, to super closed. (or the option of selecting manually).

Some resources worth checking out:

What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Facebook’s Privacy Settings – What’s the Real Issue?

  1. Good call on the Internet Explorer slider with some preset options at differing ‘levels’… but until then, the default should be private. Too many novices (and children) on the web. Heck, I can’t even reliably find my way around Facebook. Which is why I leave out so many personal details.

  2. Thanks for the comment and definitely agree that it’s tricky in the current state, and not ideal especially for novices/young users, but let me try to play the devils advocate here: Is FB really responsible for providing a more private default for its users? Shouldn’t the responsibility fall on the consumer, since they’re opting to use the service? Given that it’s a social network, Facebook could potentially contend that their mission statement is to socialize and connect people, rather than create walled gardens. That being the case, it’s easier to socialize when your network profile is more ‘open.’ If a user prefers a different experience, he or she has the freedom to make those changes (which we all agree takes quite a bit of legwork). And, unlike most other social networks, FB offers its users a granular level of control with which to create their custom setting profile.

    Too far fetched?

  3. Yes, I think a more private default setting would be the responsible thing to do given the number of children and clueless people on the Internet. Which probably does conflict with Facebook’s primary functionality of linking people. One good lawsuit will do the trick. 😉

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