Facebook keeps changing around what is private and what is public in the default settings. But the crowd is smarter than the individual company so ReclaimPrivacy have tools for you. Also a diagram on private to public social networks.

From Private to Public social networks

What will take Facebook’s place as the most secure, most protected, most private of sharing spaces online? Somewhere you can comfortably place the photos of the grandkids running around starkers at the beach?

The New York Times had an interview with Facebook’s public policy executive, Elliot Schrage. Actually the New York Times crowdsourced the interview questions (collected 300) then presented them to the guy. Which is an intelligent way to do newsgathering and newsreporting if you ask me.

We’ve found that a few fields of information need to be shared to facilitate the kind of experience people come to Facebook to have. That’s why we require the following fields to be public:

  • name,
  • profile photo (if people choose to have one),
  • gender,
  • connections (again, if people choose to make them),
  • and user ID number.

Facebook provides a less satisfying experience for people who choose not to post a photo or make connections with friends or interests. But, other than name and gender, nothing requires them to complete these fields or share information they do not want to share. If you’re not comfortable sharing, don’t. (Elliot Schrage, Facebook)

I have issues with this “if you choose to make to do so” approach. And I know that it will sound odd to those who assume that “everything that goes online is for public broadcasting” but my experience of Facebook is that it was the most private, gated social network online. You could remove yourself from search so that even those who knew your email address and name couldn’t find you. It means that if you were adamant – like my mum – to only connect with a handful of people that she chooses to, she could. And telling people that they can “just ignore friend requests” doesn’t work for a large proportion of the population that aren’t interested in social media, but worry about how they connect with friends.

For example, now spammers can go through your friends list and start adding people. They don’t even have to be your friends to see your friends list. Yuck.

and there’s other issues too. Like waaaaay too many settings:

From NYT: Too big an image? Not my fault, blame Facebook

Enter ReclaimPrivacy.org – add a widget to your browser toolbar then click it. It’ll tell you what settings you should relook at.

Social networks will take a lot of abuse from community hosts. It ends up being a co-dependent mutually abusive relationship. I kid you not. But this move towards fighting back – a la Apple – is fascinating. So much better than whining, just create some tools to help people block, exclude and manage their social connections online.

by the way, I’ve done a bunch of radio interviews today – and one for the Sydney Morning Herald on on the fallout from the Facebook security settings changes.