I am not a very active Facebook user, but I am amazed at the number and frequency of alerts and updates I keep getting from friends and family. I doubt if these friends are aware that even their micro changes and activities on Facebook are being splashed on the screens of all their friends. These alerts sure are the life blood of a networking site and without them sites like Orkut and Facebook would never have been the phenomenons that they are. However shouldn’t the user have a real and simple option to go private?
Keeping your profile updates private and controlling the overall privacy of you profile and applications is relatively simple on Orkut. However Facebook seems to have intentionally made it difficult for users to manage their privacy settings.
There’s an option “Privacy Settings” that provides only partial privacy control. It controls the privacy of only the core profile and stuff and even within this there are multiple options and confusing screens thrown at the user so as to prevent the user from going private.
Applications that you install on Facebook are a major privacy headache. You have separate sections to control privacy of applications that your friends can use to access your profile and for applications that you yourself have installed. By default each new application you install starts of privacy unfriendly.
Click these links to control your Facebook privacy. Don’t forget to edit each application and set it’s privacy settings.
- http://www.facebook.com/editapps.php (On this page ensure that you open and edit each application and tab provided. There’s no easy way to go private on all applications.)
Overall, I think these are bad policies that Facebook needs to fix asap. By providing privacy settings and then making them hopelessly complex, they are trying to project that the users have total control over their privacy when in reality 99.9% of users are totally at the mercy of Facebook.
What Facebook should have is a simple, single screen settings page and one button that says “Go Private” or something like that, which will disable all updates and alerts throughout Facebook as well as all applications.
Considering that privacy is a big concern, especially in the US and the developed world; I am surprised that privacy activists haven’t protested against these Facebook policies as yet.