Facebook’s mission is to make it easier for people to find each other on the web, but what if you don’t want to be found?
by Brandi Bottalico ’10
If you woke up on Wednesday, December 9th and did not change your personalized Facebook privacy settings, then much of your information became available to anyone who has access to a Facebook. Facebook has changed its default privacy settings to include not only the name, hometown, and profile picture of Facebook users, but also all photos and videos on users’ walls.
According to Facebook’s “A Guide to Privacy on Facebook” (Dec. 14) the privacy settings were changed in order to make it easier for people to connect. Yet it seems as if the new settings sacrifice users’ privacy for this goal. The new default settings have become more lenient, encouraging users to share their profiles with a broader viewing audience, whereas before Facebook tended to stick to the safer side. This new Facebook is a part of a fundamental shift in the way users share personal information.
Previously Facebook asked users to join networks, which have now become inconvenient to users due to their large memberships. Facebook now groups people into three categories: “friends,” “friends of friends” and “everyone.” The new default allows for friends of friends to view almost everything on your page, including photos, videos, comments, wall posts, picture comments, friends list and basic information. The only thing it seems to limit is the ability to comment on a user’s page. The same amount of information is shown to users who share no mutual friends, unless you are a minor. In that case, only “friends of friends” and “friends” can view information such as your wall posts, status updates and photos.
To test the way that users have adapted to the new privacy settings, The Stampede chose 25 random Bishop McNamara students to see whether these default settings had been detected and changed. Out of the 25 students, 22 had profiles revealing photos, videos, wall-to-wall comments, notes and date of birth, to users who were not friends, but shared at least one mutual friend.
Although the privacy settings now start very broad, they can be tweaked to fit the needs of users more accurately. Recently Facebook created an individual setting for every time something new is posted. This allows you to specify who is able to view each post, overriding your default. The lock below each post indicates where to choose exactly who you would like to include and exclude.
Facebook’s new changes have made it more versatile, but users must learn how to adjust their settings to fit their needs. Now, Aunty Cindy doesn’t have to read that status about how mad you are at your parents. And those embarrassing family photos from last Christmas can stay in the family.
Brandi will be writing a follow-up story to this piece. If you have any questions, comments, or stories to share, please email her — get.trampled[at]gmail.com