Following weeks of public controversy, backlash, and legal woes, Facebook has just announced its plan to once again revamp privacy controls – this time, making it a much simpler process. In the next few weeks, Facebook is implementing a simple, one-click privacy control system allowing users to share information with “Everyone,” “Friends of Friends” or “Friends Only,” similar to the privacy changes MySpace made just last week. Facebook’s quick response is a good sign that it continues to be receptive to its more than 400 million users.
Still, there are more changes many users would like to see. Comments on blogs, news articles, and other stories around the Web are full of user input and ideas of how to make Facebook privacy even better. Here’s a recap of the most discussed ideas of ways Facebook can further improve its privacy settings in the future.
Opt-in, Not Opt-out
The changes are a direct response to user feedback following the implementation of Connected Profiles and Instant Personalization, platforms that shared a user’s information to third-parties by default – with many users unaware of what was happening. Facebook’s reasoning was that users could opt-out of this, but the process of doing so was complicated. PCWorld’s Ian Paul wrote, “An opt-out model forces Facebook users to turn these new features off instead of letting them decide whether or not they want to use the new feature in the first place.” In the future, Facebook could make all new changes opt-in instead of opt-out, satisfying users and avoiding any further backlash.
Third Party Overview
Part of the appeal of Facebook is the opportunity to play games with friends, and join groups with others who share similar interests. In order to do any of these activities, users must allow third-party access to their profile, without knowing how or what that access will be used for. A commenter on Mashable brought up a good point, saying, “It’s the movement of data that we don’t see that scares us.” Facebook should lay out the terms of third-party access up front for all users, detailing what information will be used, and why. Even if users don’t read it, or don’t even care, at least those that do care will have the option of knowing.
Make Privacy a Priority
Despite the privacy debacle, Facebook shows no signs of slowing down. In November 2009, Facebook estimated its growth at a rate of nearly 500,000 each day. Of these users, how many think to set up their privacy controls before filling out their profile? Another Mashable commenter wrote, “My biggest gripe about Facebook is when you join, you really don’t get very much direction on how to control your privacy, but plenty on other stuff.” Instead of directing users on how to fill out their profile and search for friends (which are pretty self explanatory, anyway), Facebook should first direct users to privacy controls. That way, new users will know upfront what will be shared, and will also know how to get back to it in the future.
Facebook has taken a big step in responding quickly to users, and hopefully it’s a sign that they’ll continue to do so in the future. Though they still aren’t perfect, these new privacy controls should satisfy the majority of Facebook’s user base for the time being, giving Facebook even more time to tweak them and build upon even more user feedback.