Knee Jerk Reaction

Last week I watched many people post and re-post about the latest concerns over privacy on Facebook, encouraging everyone to change yet another setting. This was a knee jerk reaction that reminded me of the virus hoax emails that often get forwarded from one person to another.

If you took the time to understand the new feature, and then decided to turn it off, both on Facebook and on the participating sites, I respect your decision because it is informed. If you simply opted-out without understanding why, you encourage Facebook to continue to set the defaults of its new features in ways that might make people uncomfortable.

Two Problems

Facebook gives users amazing granular control over privacy settings, global all the way down to a single status update. The problem is that no one takes the time to learn how to use these controls. Facebook should make this easier to manage and maintain.

Facebook knows that most people accept the default settings. So they are pushing the envelope, trying to become the keeper of the official social graph on the Internet. By default, Facebook wants you to make everything public so they can sell advertisements and make business deals. (They are a for-profit company.)

Instant Personalization

The program that everyone was reacting to is a pilot program called “instant personalization” and it is currently with three partners: Microsoft, Pandora and Yelp. Imagine that you can see restaurant reviews on Yelp written by your Facebook friends, and Yelp is able to show you this information even though you aren’t yet connected with these people on Yelp itself. This is what the “instant personalization” is for – your friends travel with you to other sites and you benefit from a relationship that is already defined on Facebook.

The opt-out process is two steps, one on Facebook and the other on the partner site, if you happen to use that site. So, if you turned off instant personalization on Facebook but neglected to turn it off on the partner sites as well, you probably skipped a step. Go back and read the details, then finish the job if you are so inclined.