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Keeping Up with Facebook Privacy Changes (Again)

Although on a day to day basis I’m a Mac user, every so often I need to dip into the Windows virtual machine on my laptop. This generally fills me with fear and trepidation, because as an infrequent Windows user, whenever I do go over to the dark side I know my internet connection will grind to a halt and I will get regular requests to restart the machine as Windows goes into update mode. In a similar vein, on a day to day basis it’s Twitter that meets my social web needs. But on the rare occasions I go into Facebook, I’m also filled with dread. Why? Because there is frequently a new privacy minefield to negotiate (e.g. Keeping Your Facebook Updates Private).

Over the last few days, there’s been a Facebook developers conference, so I thought it worth checking in to see what new horrors have been released; and here’s what I saw today:

Hmm…

So Facebook makes it easy for website owners to help you “tweet” a link to your Facebook stream… (I wonder, does this also work as a social bookmarking service? Can I browse through the links I’ve Liked?

Ah – according to Deceiving Users with the Facebook Like Button, it appears that “Removing the feed item from your newsfeed does not remove your like — it stays in your profile. You have to click the button again to remove the ‘Like’ relationship.” So it could be used as a social bookmarking service, of a sort. Or at least a Facebook equivalent to “favorited” websites in your browser.

As you might have guessed from the previously linked to post, all may not (yet) be well with the Liked implementation though – because it seems that it’s possible to add a “Like” link on one page that actually Likes a page on another website. Which reminds me a little of phishing

So, what other goodness (?!) does Facebook have in store for us?

Instant personalisation, hmm…? So if I go to Pandora, say, it can trawl my Facebook profile, decide from my Likes and updates that I’m a goth hippy groover, and generate a personalised radio station for me jus’ like that? The oo’s have it… (ooh…, cool… or spooky…?;-)

And guess what, Facebook have thoughtfully opted me in to that service, without me having to do anything, and without even forcing me to notice (I didn’t have to follow the link on the home page to read the new service announcement; and for mobile users, I wonder if any of the Facebook apps tell the users that they’ve been opted in to this new way of giving their personal data to third parties…?)

I think I’ll click here:

I think I’ll untick…

Am I sure…? Err, yes… Confirm.

But what does this mean…?

Please keep in mind that if you opt out, your friends may still share public Facebook information about you to personalize their experience on these partner sites unless you block the application.

Hmmm, I think I’ll Learn More… (do you ever get the feeling you’ve ended up in one of those Create Your Own Adventure style games, only for real… Is this Brazil, or a Trial?

Err, right…

I guess this is the one:

What data is shared with instantly personalized partner sites?
When you and your friends visit an instantly personalized site, the partner can use your public Facebook information, which includes your name, profile picture, gender, and connections. To access any non-public information, the website is required to ask for you or your friend’s explicit permission.

Or is that “When you or your friends visit…”? That is, if my friend visits Pandora and goes for instant personalisation, can Pandora use my friend as a vector to grab my public information? A question that now follows is – can Pandora identify my Facebook identity through some mechanism or other (e.g. Facebook set cookies?) and reconcile that with what it has learned about me from my friends who have opted in to personlisation features. And if so, could it then offer me personalisation services anyway, even though I opted out on Facebook…?

I’m still unticking… because as Facebook adds partners, I probably won’t pick up on it…

So, do I dare walk up the Facebook Privacy tree…? Let’s go up to the Privacy Setting page:

So here’s the Profile Settings control panel:

Hmmm… there’s a link there to Application Settings, which I don’t think appears on the Privacy settings page. Where does it go?

I’m not sure I understand everything in that drop down menu…?

How about the Contact settings?

Search?

Blocking?

Sheesh.. So here are the tabs that I have to work through:

Many of the pages only require setting a simple drop down box (though thinking through the implications, and what relates to what may be comples); but there are also quite a few that offer “Edit Settings…” links, and I suspect that some of those open up into rather more involved dialogues…

I reckon you could easily spend at least 1 week/10 hours of a 10 point short course just looking at Facebook privacy settings, and trying to think through what the implications are…

Which brings to mind the Facebook network visulisation I started working on with Gephi… Could we use visualisation tools to highlight who in your Facebook network can see what given your current privacy settings? Methinks there’s an app in that…

PS popping back in to Facebook just now to delete most of the apps I’m signed up to, I noticed on the “click here” page linked to above the option:

What your friends can share about you
Control what your friends can share about you when using applications and websites

Clicking through to Edit Settings, here’s what I see:

[Since grabbing that screenshot, I've unchecked all those boxes...]

I’ll spell out the text for you:

What your friends can share about you through applications and websites

When your friend visits a Facebook-enhanced application or website, they may want to share certain information to make the experience more social. For example, a greeting card application may use your birthday information to prompt your friend to send a card

If your friend uses an application that you do not use, you can control what types of information the application can access. Please note that applications will always be able to access your publicly available information (Name, Profile Picture, Gender, Current City, Networks, Friend List, and Pages) and information that is visible to Everyone

So… if i don’t take steps to protect my information, then my friends can give access to my presence, videos, links, photos, videos and photos and tagged in, my birthday, hometown etc etc to third party applications? Does that mean if I have various privacy settings set to share with friends only, they can still share the information on to third parties I did not anticipate seeing the data?

In the following set up, who can see photos and videos of me?

Answers in the comments please… If anyone’s done the experiments to see just how the various previous setting inter-relate, I’d love to see a write-up. I’m also thinking: maybe Facebook should be required to publish a logical model of what’s going on? (Are there logics of privacy? You could probably get somewhere close using epistemic logic?)

(It’s all a bit like writing legislation that says that as yet unspecified powers will be given to a Minister, who may then devolve those powers to others…;-)

PPS a page I didn’t link to/show a screengrab of but should have included is the Applications page (this is not under the privacy settings. You can find it here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/editapps.php?v=allowed

If you don’t use an app, particularly an external one, I suggest you delete it…

[UPDATE: Why I Joined the Facebook Privacy Changes Backlash...]

Written by Tony Hirst

April 23, 2010 at 8:47 am

Posted in Anything you want

Tagged with ,

6 Responses

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  1. [...] Search « Keeping Up with Facebook Privacy Changes (Again) [...]

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  3. After reading this post I am seriously considering at what point I don;t just shut my Facebook down. I can;t make heads or tails of any of the privacy issues, and while I have no problem remaining open with my info, I do have issues with that data being shilled to various companies all over the web. Making me a willing partner in the idea of a potential consumer/client.

    I guess I don;t see this as either remarkable or inordinately evil for Facebook, but rather just another reason that the drawbacks of this space continue to outstrip any benefits. Thanks for the play-by-play, and now to think through who I’ll really miss in Facebook, and if there isn;t another way to reach them.

    Jim

    April 23, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    • I think what gets me is the possibility of confusion/misapprehension – someone setting the privacy setting so that they think their photos, messages, contact details or whatever are being shared in one way, when actually they may be shared in another.

      I’m really confused as to how the settings that appear to relate to the same thing appear in different places; in which case – what setting is top trump?

      I think visualisation could play a role here – taking a user’s settings and then displaying a graphic showing who can see what…

      Tony Hirst

      April 23, 2010 at 7:04 pm

  4. I am sick of facebook changing the privacy settings all the time. i have all my photo’s & albums privacy set to only friends yet people who are not my friends are commenting on them i have searched all over for an answer to this but can i find one. So glad i do & will not post pictures of my children on this site.

    Alison

    May 5, 2010 at 1:11 pm

  5. This really is much ado about nothing – if the people that matter, commonly referred to as ‘them’, want to know about you, none of these rules apply – they’ll have people going through your bins and following you about. If you are worried about some ingrate taking a fancy to you because of a picture you posted…well – I won’t bother stating the obvious. As for ‘Opt-out’, thats been around for years in most forms of market, epitomised by the Google taskbar.

    Stalking, info-harvesting, observation, monitoring etc, etc happen amongst humans whatever the dynamic – be it real world or on the web. In the UK and US governments it is common practice to store transcripts of all verbal and text communication from any registered communication device be it your emails, phonecalls or IM service. Your ISPs even have an obligation to observe your traffic for copyright and VAT reasons. Your phones all have GPS for crying out loud – not only a beacon but a listening device too!

    Privacy for me is to be able to masturbate without being interupted, I dont give a damn who knows how old I am or what I look like drunk at 3am on Saturday morning…

    You may stop someone trying to hack your bank account but not the thief in the street with a knife – whilst the dynamic is different, its an identical crime. I know which one I’d rather!! Get over it.

    Andy B

    May 13, 2010 at 4:42 pm


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