Facebook Rolls Out New “Privacy” Settings, Encourages Users to Abandon “Privacy”

Published on December 9, 2009
by Peter Kafka

Facebook is rolling out new privacy settings that it first began talking about in July. The company is holding a press conference this morning to walk us media types through the change, but here’s the main thing every Facebook user ought to know: Facebook wants users to share as much about themselves–with everyone on the Internet–as they can.

Here’s a screenshot of the new privacy settings menu Facebook presented to me today. Note that the default settings for most of my data are set to “Everyone” (click image to enlarge):
facebook privacy settings

But what does “Everyone” actually mean? It means anyone with access to the Web. But you’ll need to read the fine print below the settings to figure that one out:

facebook everyone setting

Important note: Facebook says these settings won’t be the default for anyone under age 18, and that kids will be prevented from sharing much of their information outside of Facebook. The company also says that users who have tweaked their privacy settings in the past will find those settings as the default when they first visit their privacy page. The majority of users, though, will end up with the “Everyone” default.

That said, the “share everything with everyone” strategy is a crucial part of Facebook’s effort to supplant Google (GOOG) as the Web’s key data repository. And I don’t have a problem with it, in theory: Like Eric Schmidt (and Scott McNealy before him), I don’t think there’s much privacy on the Web to begin with. Still, even though people don’t tend to behave as if privacy is important to them on the Web, they certainly like to complain about it.

And for what it’s worth, I have gone ahead and deselected the “Everyone” option for my stuff. If you want to see video of my toddler toddling, you’re going to have to be one of my 466 “friends.”

My bet: Facebook is going to end up hearing from all sorts of folks who didn’t realize they’re sharing everything with “everyone” and are now upset about it. And I think Facebook will end up by changing its default settings sooner than later.

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