Respecting Privacy, Learning from Facebook
Friday, May 28th, 2010

Facebook has been receiving a lot of attention lately as a result of their privacy settings.  In particular the default settings on new features like the Instant Personalization through the new Graph API which launched in April . Matt McKeon has a great visual illustration on how the default Facebook privacy settings have changed between 2007 and 2010.

The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook

Matt’s images are complex but they show the gradual trend for Facebook default settings to be more public and the complexity of sharing different information with different groups of people. Its important to understand that these are the default settings and many people have chosen to define their own settings and comfort levels.

Facebook has recently announced and is currently rolling-out simpler privacy settings for all users. The general trend is to allow the user to opt-into new services instead of enabling them by default. Its important to learn Facebook and apply the same principals when engaging individuals. Theses principals are:

1/Inform the User

Outline exactly what information you need from them and how the information will be used. On my websites this is done through a privacy policy but may need to be updated for Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media websites.

2/ Explicit Consent

When you launch a new initiative or service that effect privacy or personal information, request explicit consent on the new usage of personal information. It is generally not acceptable to automatically assume everyone wants to participate or share personal information.

3/ Keep it Simple

Facebook has learned that by adding multiple options and controls they confused the user and may it hard for users to understand what they were sharing.

4/ Listen and Respond Quickly

Problems may arise where information is disclosed unintentionally and effect user data. Respond quickly and effectively to these situation and respect the user’s involved, where possible inform them of the situation.

Facebook has achieved incredible growth by allowing users to share personal information with their friends. They recognize that users will share more personal and use the service more effectively when they are confident of their privacy.

– Colin Smillie –

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