Facebook Launches Three Key Features To Protect Privacy

On: October 7, 2010
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About Philip Man
Technology should be centered around a meaningful experience: understand behaviour not technology, think people instead of device and. Don’t make products, make experiences. Like Huxley said, “to give organizations precedence over persons is to subordinate ends to means.” Technology changes fast, but people do not. The fun part does not happen in the device, but on the road from the screen towards the mind. The challenge is to understand the user’s motivations; what drives him or her, culturally and psychologically? People often don’t know what they want until you show it to them. My main ideas involve developments in new media technology and I am particularly interested in how new media is inherent to new ways of communicating, to what extent that requires and generates new kinds of data and how this can be used to improve relations between people. I like the challenge of difficult problems and to act as an idea catalyst /

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It seems that Mark Zuckerberg has listened to all the nagging about how Facebook is violating the privacy of their users. On the live press-conference of Facebook yesterday, Zuckerberg announced a few features that the social networking site will introduce in order to protect the privacy of their users, or at least give the users more control on how their personal data is being published. This isn’t the first time that Zuckerberg is complying with the complaints. The hardcore privacy killer Beacon had a nice run before it came across heavy resistance of the users and immediately put offline. At the conference, Zuckerberg introduced three major changes that will focus on the fundamental problem of privacy and information regulation. Here we go.

Download your information

In line of ‘you get what you give’, Facebook will make it possible to download all the information you hand to them. Yes, everything. Profile data, wall postings, photos, comments, likes, etc. Using the option you can download a Zip-file containing all the data that they have from you (at least that is what they say). Of course this is not a single-click process due to, guess what, privacy issues. When you request the Zip-file, a download link will be sent to your email. “There hasn’t been a way to download all your information,” Zuckerberg explained. “A lot of time people just want to have a copy of all their information.” And now they can.

This downloadable profile of everything does raise awareness to watch out and be careful what you put online. However, I think this is just a candy to keep the privacy complainers satisfied. Most people do know what they put online and getting this information back at you isn’t protecting privacy at all. We know where our data is coming from, but where does it goes to? What we really want in a Zip-file is a list of all the companies Facebook sells our data to, saying what price is being paid for what kind of data. Now kids, that would be much more interesting!

Dashboard of Public Applications

While some million websites use the Facebook Connect option, it is hard for the users to see which website will use what kind of data they publish on Facebook. With the new dashboard, one can have a good overview off all the applications that are in use and can regulate per applications what kind of data is being shared. This dashboard is basically a privacy manager for Facebook Connect users.

Zuckerberg praises and celebrates this new feature, but the festivity is a joke. This dashboard should have been made possible at the same time Facebook Connect was launched. Now everytime Zuckerberg is alone in his office, a little mean smile pops on his face because he sold almost two years of free data. Free from complaints that is.

Groups: The Biggest Online Problem of Social Networking

Yes, Zuckerberg and his team have been saying that improving Groups is one of the biggest problems of social networking. The big problem here is that information sharing on Facebook is a black or white thing: you either share it with one or you share it with all, there is no gray area here. Facebook has done well by listening to all the requests for a better Groups feature. Some nice lady explains:

In this way, Facebook adds an important feature to its website: creating levels of intimacy between friendships. The whole idea is to map, or rather rank, all the Facebook friends you have, thereby creating a social graph which is useful to you and to them. Within this new group interface, there are two new things. The first is the possibility to share and collectively edit documents. The second is that it becomes possible to chat with multiple people in Group Chat, a feature that I see as one of the best changes that are presented at the conference.

However, Facebook foresees some problems. Zuckerberg says that people don’t like to make lists. Even if the interface makes it very easy to make lists, people tend not to. Here he says Facebook is going to develop some algorithm that will make and recommend groups for you. I hear you think:

“What?! Is Facebook going to decide which are better friends and which are not?!”

Yes they are, although according to Zuckerberg the social input of the user has to remain to decide if the groups and recommendations are correct. This proces will be similar to the photo tagging system (which means they will add someone in advance and you can decide later whether this is correct or not). Cut Zuckerberg some slack and help the man! I mean c’mon, Facebook can’t know everything, right?

Tip of the Zuckerberg

For me it is clear that under those presented new features, to protect privacy and give users more control on their information sharing, lies a whole different agenda of Zuckerberg. All people with common sense should know that. Like the Prophecy says: “What do all men with power want? More power.”

Check out the infographs on Facebook’s default privacy settings made by Matt McKeon who works at the IBM Visual Communication Lab. It tells you what is really happening.

For the most updated version, check the website here.


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