Note To Facebook: Yes, Web Users DO Care About Privacy

Earlier this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg infamously said that Web users no longer cared about privacy. A new social norm had taken hold, he said. If he was going to launch Facebook again today, he would do so without the old settings that kept information hidden from outsiders.

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.

3 comments about "Note To Facebook: Yes, Web Users DO Care About Privacy".
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  1. Patrick Morgan from InfoKwik Internet Solutions, January 28, 2010 at 1:33 a.m.

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is totally wrong about privacy. Does he just spout statements with absolutely no research or is this what he wishes were true. His huge ego is doing the speaking and I have never seen anyone's ego tell the truth, there is always a personal motive behind it.

  2. John Mallen from JMC Marketing Communications, January 28, 2010 at 6:14 a.m.

    The Times article has sound advice, and also makes the point I want to add to this discussion: we are ultimately responsible for the information about ourselves that we post to the Internet. I like the suggestions in the Times, but even following them, why kid ourselves into thinking anything on the Web - or in other places for that matter -- are really private.

  3. Nelson Yuen from Stereotypical Mid Sized Services Corp., January 28, 2010 at 11:38 a.m.

    Ditto John.

    Patrick, I can't speculate on Mark's intentions. But maybe, just maybe, he's trying to take over the world by accumulating incriminating drunk photos and crude conversations from the world's most powerful C level executives or celebrities?

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