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Facebook Privacy Policy – a slow slide towards disintergration

Alex Christie

11 May 2010

Since Facebook first launched the privacy policy that it adopted in its infancy it has slowly eroded. In the beginning it had the privacy of the user at heart, but now it seems as if Facebook is growing into a monopoly that feels that it control the internet.

The exact foundations of their success are being forgotten about with their slow change toward a far lose privacy policy. You might wonder what foundations they are throwing away, and what difference would it make as they are so large that it surely won’t matter.

Wrong. Facebook are forgetting about the user. That is the one foundation that they cannot forget about. Without the volume of users of all different ages, races, locations and languages, they would not have the social media platform with the power that it has today.

The privacy policy has slowly disintegrated from the tight user-focused statement that it first was when Facebook was young with big hopes and dreams, to something that suggests that Mr Zuckerberg is starting to move away from the close community ideal, towards a more monarchist approach.

It seems they have slowly been changing the privacy policy, and as they continue to grow, their dominance over the internet continues to streach and it seems that the users, who their very success is based upon, are being left in their dust, in the wake of their success and glory.

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation Website:

Facebook Privacy Policy circa 2005

“No personal information that you submit to Thefacebook will be available to any user of the Web Site who does not belong to at least one of the groups specified by you in your privacy settings.”

Facebook Privacy Policy circa 2006:

“We understand you may not want everyone in the world to have the information you share on Facebook; that is why we give you control of your information. Our default privacy settings limit the information displayed in your profile to your school, your specified local area, and other reasonable community limitations that we tell you about.”

Facebook Privacy Policy circa 2007:

“Profile information you submit to Facebook will be available to users of Facebook who belong to at least one of the networks you allow to access the information through your privacy settings (e.g., school, geography, friends of friends). Your name, school name, and profile picture thumbnail will be available in search results across the Facebook network unless you alter your privacy settings.”

Facebook Privacy Policy circa November 2009:

“Facebook is designed to make it easy for you to share your information with anyone you want. You decide how much information you feel comfortable sharing on Facebook and you control how it is distributed through your privacy settings. You should review the default privacy settings and change them if necessary to reflect your preferences. You should also consider your settings whenever you share information. …

Information set to “everyone” is publicly available information, may be accessed by everyone on the Internet (including people not logged into Facebook), is subject to indexing by third party search engines, may be associated with you outside of Facebook (such as when you visit other sites on the internet), and may be imported and exported by us and others without privacy limitations. The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to “everyone.” You can review and change the default settings in your privacy settings.”

Facebook Privacy Policy circa December 2009:

“Certain categories of information such as your name, profile photo, list of friends and pages you are a fan of, gender, geographic region, and networks you belong to are considered publicly available to everyone, including Facebook-enhanced applications, and therefore do not have privacy settings. You can, however, limit the ability of others to find this information through search using your search privacy settings.”

Current Facebook Privacy Policy, as of April 2010:

“When you connect with an application or website it will have access to General Information about you. The term General Information includes your and your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections, and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting. … The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to “everyone.” … Because it takes two to connect, your privacy settings only control who can see the connection on your profile page. If you are uncomfortable with the connection being publicly available, you should consider removing (or not making) the connection.”

As you can see from these quotes taken from the Facebook Privacy Policy, the user has slowly become less and less protected. In fact things have progressed towards the devaluation of the user, and what the user really means to Facebook.

Do you think Facebook has become too big, and forgot where they come from? Are they in such a strong position that they could continue to eradicate their privacy policy and forget about the user in their quest to continue to streach their dominance on the internet?

I think the introduction of the Open Graph is something that initially could be a good thing, but when you dig deeper and think about the potential issues that could creep up, it starts to make you wonder where Facebook will draw the line in terms of user privacy.

Take a read about how Facebook wants to rule the world (wide web)

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