Note To Facebook: Yes, Web Users DO Care About Privacy
Zuckerberg offered those remarks to justify the company's recent controversial change in privacy settings. Last December, the company changed its recommended default settings to share-everything-with-everyone for status updates, photos and other information. Additionally, Facebook also began classifying users' names, profile pictures, cities, gender, networks, list of friends and pages people are fans of as "publicly available information."
It was another big miscalculation for a company that has stumbled time and again on privacy. Aside from the near-universal criticism by watchdogs like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Electronic Privacy Information Center, many Facebook users themselves appeared unhappy with the changes. Others, even if OK with the new settings in theory, are taking a keen interest in making sure they aren't themselves now sharing all data with everyone.
Consider, the most emailed story at The New York Times today -- and every day since it appeared in the Times on Jan. 20 -- is a ReadWriteWeb article, "The 3 Facebook Settings Every User Should Check Now." The piece offers users practical advice about how to keep their photos and updates private and their information out of search engines.
If nothing else, the fact that many Times readers are still emailing that article one week after it first ran shows just how much of a concern privacy really is for Web users.
Additionally, research released today by the think tank Future of Privacy Foundation also shows that the majority of Web users feel their privacy is compromised online. The organization reported that 64% of 2,600 survey respondents said they agreed with the statement, "I feel that as a result of my visiting websites, my privacy has been invaded by others who collect data about me." While that survey dealt with behavioral targeting, and not information volunteered on social networking sites, the results still show that privacy matters.
Perhaps the next time Facebook is contemplating a change in terms, the company should commission some research, or just read some of the work that's already been done, before deciding that a new "social norm" justifies yet more privacy-unfriendly features.