When Facebook updated its privacy settings a few days ago, the changes drew a mix of acclaim and criticism.
One thing, however, was made clear-securing social networks means taking a serious approach to privacy. According to Facebook, that starts with an understanding of what privacy settings exist and taking stock of what information users want to share online.
Interestingly, many of the site's 350 million-plus users previously did nothing on the privacy front, leaving much of their information exposed. Tim Sparapani, director of public policy at Facebook, told eWEEK as much this week, stating that "hundreds of millions of people had never stopped and thought about the consequences of sharing information."
To do that, Facebook created a transition tool, a tutorial of sorts to educate users about the new privacy controls the site has implemented. For those worried about security, the new controls can heighten privacy in a variety of ways, but there are also areas where they arguably fall short. Here are some things for Facebook users to think about:
1. Facebook Applications & You: Applications on Facebook can pull certain user information from friends of the people using the application. Previously, users could choose to "not share any information about me through the Facebook API."Now, information deemed public-namely your profile picture, name, city and networks-is available to developers of any apps you or your friends use. However, you can change the settings to prevent other information from being shared by going into the "What your friends can share about you" section of the "Applications and Websites" category in "Privacy Settings."
2. Limiting Access to Friends' List: Facebook has changed things to allow users to hide their list of friends. The "View Friends" link has been removed from search results, and users can choose to hide their friends' list on their profile page by unchecking "Show my friends on my profile."
3. Controlling Access to Content: You can choose who can view any piece of content that you post on your profile. The first time you post with this new control, you'll get a message on how to use it.
4. Controlling Who Contacts You: You can limit the ability of others to contact you by changing the "Privacy Settings" on your profile. Click "Contact Information" and scroll down the list and make whatever changes you like.
5. Conceal Your Profile from Web Searches: To make sure any personal pictures or messages posted on your profile do not pop up on Google or other search engines, click on the "search" option under "Privacy Settings" and make the change.
6. Recommended Settings: One of the issues that got the strongest negative reaction from users was that Facebook's transition tool's recommended settings reduced privacy levels to the lowest possible levels. This is fixable, however, just by clicking to change the settings back to their original levels.
7. Everyone, Everywhere: The "Everyone" setting means exactly that-everyone. This is the lowest possible setting from a privacy perspective, giving anyone the ability to view your information.