Just to add to all the news about Facebook

As if there is not enough news about the latest facebook changes, I had to write something to contribute to all that noise. This is my $0.02.

For a person who has moved around quite a bit and away from home, facebook is a convenient tool to keep in contact with people who are physically far from where I am. Heck, it made it easier to keep in contact with the friends who live in the same city as I do. My friends though are probably not going to get a whole lot of information about me given my highly paranoid privacy settings. (One may also see this as me being too lazy to fill in all my favourite quotes, movies, music, tv shows, my employer data and where I was educated. So really, there is no data in the first place to be made public.)

When I first read in the WIRED article that what one writes in one’s status update can automatically put one on a certain fan page and viewed by everyone, I got quite upset. But after some digging, I realised that maybe they didn’t get it all right. Status updates are still within one’s privacy control. Unless you allow everyone (and I mean everyone on facebook) to view your status updates, then of course it will appear when anyone (and I mean anyone on facebook) will see your status update when they search for that fan page. It just shows how confusing it can get with every new policy change and takes a while for one, even the tech savvy, to understand the changes. I appreciate facebook’s attempt at making privacy settings more fine-grained but this makes it more complex as well and thus difficult to explain and for people to comprehend.

What I particularly dislike about the policy changes are the default privacy settings and the expanding definition of basic information that is made available to everyone in facebook. It would also help if facebook understood the difference between publishing and making something public within a sphere you created. (See article.) For example, this blog entry is publishing. It differs from having this as a note posted on my facebook page because the privacy setting I would have limited (and controlled) the people who will be able to see post.

Below I highlight two issues that I personally find worrying and perhaps, more difficult to deal with.

(1) I think I have a good grasp on how to control the data that I made public and what is kept to my circle of friends. What is a concern though, is the information that my friends are posting about me on facebook. That is something that I do not control. Everyone perceives privacy differently and mutual agreement / consenus should be required in order for data to be made public. It would be nice to see a function within facebook that requests for permission to post a photo of a friend or even tag a friend. This respects the privacy of all parties involved. And if this is a cumbersome process, perhaps it will make one think twice about what to post online. More are exercising self-censorship as mentioned in this article in the NY Times.

(2) Another concern does not involve so much the social aspect of facebook but applies more to application security. These are the vulnerabilities in web applications that lead to data leakage. Here are some that have been reported in the past by Sophos. The leakage of IP addresses and the security hole in the chat.

So to conclude, nope, I am not going to drop off facebook land any time soon. But I will reconsider if ever become famous. Can’t have any photos of me sent to TMZ. Not that there are any discriminating ones.