New Facebook Privacy Settings: less private than you think

Noah Abramovitz '14, Staff Writer

“People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people… That social norm is just something that has evolved over time”.  Facebook CEO and entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg voiced these words in an interview with TechCrunch blog, confirming the belief, long held by many that Zuckerberg’s considers issues of privacy to be trivial. While these words have caused quite the commotion, it is important to put this issue into perspective. While Mr. Zuckerberg could do a better job in making these privacy settings more user-friendly, these measures do exist and can be taken to ensure one’s privacy and comfort. Simply because Zuckerberg has certain different principles, doesn’t necessarily mean that he is imposing his own moral code upon you. Greg Lim ’15 agrees with this sentiment saying, “I think that Facebook provides very good security. You just need to get used to it and check your settings after every update.”

Surprisingly, the most prevalent complaint seems to center on just that, the fact that people can’t seem to attain a sufficient understanding about those settings. In addition it seems that with every new Facebook update, there comes a cavalcade of grievances about how, “the old layout was better” and “next time this happens I’m leaving Facebook”. On the other hand, what people fail to realize is that with every new re-design, the privacy settings are changed. This means that users must re-adapt to a whole new privacy interface to fit each user’s needs. In this respect the company troubles me, because they fail to realize that users need a certain modicum of constancy. It can be disconcerting to log on to an account with a whole new set of parameters every week. Fawaz Mohiuddin ’14 seems to also be disconcerted saying, “I feel like if Facebook changes to much and becomes to complex for the average user, then people are going to start leaving it.”

In an open letter from Mr. Zuckerberg to all Facebook users he stated, “We’ve worked hard to build controls that we think will be better for you, but we also understand that everyone’s needs are different… the best way for you to find the right settings is to read through all your options and customize them for yourself.” Caroline Hunsicker ’13 seems to confirm that Zuckerberg’s intentions are succeeding, describing the usefulness of the new capabilities saying, “The information on my profile isn’t relevant to everybody I am friends with, so I use the settings to separate different communities on my list of friends.” While the settings may at first be difficult to understand, there is no doubt in my mind that the new layout is exceedingly useful in so many ways.

Overall, I would argue that the new interface is certainly advantageous to expand our social networking abilities. Facebook enables us to pick and choose whom we are informing of our daily activities, and equips us with the ability to connect with people in surreal ways. But, Zuckerberg needs to better inform users of the site about usage of the privacy settings. They can sometimes be complicated, and we as users deserve friendlier and easier access to settings. These changes could have the potential to be the first ones that wrong bring about a chorus of boos.