The Stochastic Game
Ramblings of General Geekery

Facebook’s privacy issues

Everybody knows, or at least says without really knowing, that Facebook has a few privacy issues, but there’s one thing I never quite realized until recently…

It all started with my friend Bertrand opening his new personal blog. He wanted a dedicated place to post personal stuff, which he previously posted alternatively on his professional blog or on Facebook. I’m pretty sure he also wanted an excuse to play around with his new cool baby, Orchard… Anyway. In order not to start completely from scratch, he imported those previous articles he wrote, along with their comments, to the new blog.

I immediately sent him an email to tell him he could work at Google Buzz, seeing how he just disclosed Facebook comments to the public… but as I was writing it, I wondered… were his notes already public in the first place? You see, Facebook gives you a lot of control over your content’s visibility. You can specify exactly who gets access to what, who gets to comment on what, etc. The problem is that, although the content creator knows what the privacy settings are, the content consumers don’t. Being on Facebook, I just assumed that those notes were, at best, visible to friends of friends… but of course, it wasn’t the case. Bertrand’s notes were public all this time, and as I commented on them, I unknowingly posted completely public stuff.

None of those comments being public bothers me, mind you. But it’s just annoying how, when you participate in your friends’ online social life, you don’t really know what kind of privacy level you’re dealing with. Obviously, Facebook should add some kind of indicator whenever you post a comment, telling you who will be able to see it. I’m surprised this hasn’t been such a big deal so far. Maybe people are too busy with “Company XYZ is evil!!”-type generalities to bother with actual details.