Facebook Changes Default Settings, Pushes Privacy Checkups

Under pressure that its users may start sharing less, or make a move to more anonymous services, Facebook announced yesterday that it would provide a privacy checkup to every one of its global users. In an effort to help its 1.28 billion users better manage “private” information, the company is also recommending a privacy checkup be conducted on a regular basis, perhaps annually like a physical exam. And for new users, Facebook is initially setting content to be seen only by friends.

“The change in default settings and the person-by-person review is a sharp reversal for Facebook, whose privacy settings are famously complicated,” reports The New York Times. “Some users may be shocked when they see just how widely their personal information has been shared.”

“For most of its 10-year history, Facebook has pushed and sometimes forced its users to share more information more publicly, drawing fire from customers, regulators and privacy advocates across the globe,” notes the article. “That helped make Facebook the world’s largest social network and an advertising behemoth.”

However, Facebook recently acknowledged that future growth will depend on its users feeling confident they are sharing the right details with the right people. A redesigned app control panel is another step in providing users with more control over what and how they share information.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive, has been watching the growing popularity of anonymous sharing apps such as Whisper and Secret, and privacy-friendly services like WhatsApp and Snapchat (Facebook acquired WhatsApp for as much as $19 billion).

Pew Research Center reports that 90 percent of Internet users have made moves to delete or mask their digital footprints. Additionally, Facebook is experiencing pressure from privacy regulators who suggest the social network has misled its users regarding how their data has been shared.

“Even as Facebook takes steps to empower its users on privacy, it continues to introduce features that raise new issues,” explains NYT. “On Wednesday, it announced an optional service for mobile phones that eavesdrops on the sounds in a room to try to identify any music or television shows that might be playing so that a user can share that information with friends.”

But the company has also made recent moves suggesting it is taking privacy more seriously, including more control for its new location-sharing feature called Nearby Friends, and changes it made this week to its Facebook Login service (check out the ETCentric coverage).

“Facebook has been testing portions of the privacy checkup for months and has not yet decided how extensive it will be. The company is also trying to determine how it will work for the 341 million users who gain access to the service only through mobile devices,” concludes the article. “Facebook is also considering broader privacy changes, like creating a dashboard that would make it easier to find and update a range of privacy settings.”

Related News:
Making It Easier to Share With Who You Want, Facebook Newsroom, 5/22/14
A New, Optional Way to Share and Discover Music, TV and Movies, Facebook Newsroom, 5/21/14
Facebook To Let Users Limit Data Revealed by Log-InsThe New York Times, 4/30/14
Facebook’s New Twist on Location Sharing Puts Users in Control, The New York Times, 4/17/14