Facebook users speak out against new privacy settings

Many Facebook users expressed anger at the site Wednesday for changing privacy settings, which they say caused personal information to be inadvertently exposed.

Facebook employee Ruchi Sanghvi explained the changes in an official Facebook blog post titled "New tools to control your experience," which received about 500 comments from users, many of them critical of privacy changes.

"Great … job. Now everyone who isn't even my friend can see my profile," one user wrote. "This is ridiculous. I'm not an idiot, I've searched thru all the settings for over an hour and now friends of mine who I did not want seeing stuff can now see stuff. I have tried blocking them and customizing them and now all my [information] is exposed."

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Many other Facebook users apparently approve of the privacy changes, since more than 2,400 clicked the "like" button on Sanghvi's blog post.

But criticism came from numerous quarters. Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote that some of Facebook's new settings "have created new and serious privacy problems for users of the popular social network service."

Blogger Marshall Kirkpatrick, vice president of content development at ReadWriteWeb, called the privacy settings "near Orwellian."

"The company says the move is all about helping users protect their privacy and connect with other people, but the new default option is to change from 'old settings' to becoming visible to 'everyone,'" Kirkpatrick writes. "This is not what Facebook users signed up for. It's not about privacy at all, it's about increasing traffic and the visibility of activity on the site."

The Facebook announcement said the site is requiring all 350 million users to review and update their settings.

"If you've ever chosen to restrict access to parts of your profile, we'll be recommending that you keep those more restrictive settings," Sanghvi wrote. "If you've never done this, we'll be making recommendations based on how lots of people are sharing information today. For example, we'll be recommending that you make available to everyone a limited set of information that helps people find and connect with you, information like "About Me" and where you work or go to school. For more sensitive information, like photos and videos in which you've been tagged and your phone number, we'll be recommending a more restrictive setting."

Users who commented on the Facebook blog post were frustrated by attempts to navigate the new privacy system.

"I've been trying to hide the Wall, Friend Lists, and Pages to non-friends without avail," one user wrote. "I'm pretty sure they were hidden before I went through the Transition Tool, and now I can't find the control to hide them. Facebook, your intention may be nice, but your execution is seriously flawed."

Another user wrote that "I did not give permission to show my 'likes' to everybody. Please correct. Also I did not give permission to show my complete friends list to all my friends. Please correct."

Still another said "Unfortunately the new settings do not include an important privacy option that existed before: the possibility to hide our own friends list to some people or lists! I find it a big violation of my own privacy: I chose to hide my friends list from some groups of people who could just access the mutual friends, now they can see my whole list. Please reintroduce this option ASAP!"

One user, rather than complaining about a lack of privacy, commented that the new settings seem to have hid her profile picture from searches. "My profile pic does not show up on my home page or random searches now like it used to, and I actually went and opened all my privacy settings to try to get it to show. Still nothing," she wrote.

Others accused users of unfairly criticizing Facebook, saying those who are angry simply don't understand how to use the new settings. "You can hide everything you mentioned," one person wrote in response to another post. "Don't [complain] about something you know nothing about."

Facebook has not rolled out the changes to all users, and several pointed out that, for them, nothing has yet changed.

"I don't see the new privacy settings yet, so I expect they're doing a slow rollout," one user wrote. "However, if these new settings in any way decrease my privacy, then I'll sadly be forced to deactivate my account. I will absolutely not allow my information to be shared with the world at large. Facebook is designed to be a place to share among friends. Not just another blogging platform. My Wall is not intended to be visible to anybody I don't want it to be visible to."

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Jon Brodkin

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