There has been lots of talk recently about Facebook and their approach to privacy. Some folks are upset about the ever increasing amount of their Facebook profile data that is publicly available by default with each progressive change to their terms of service.

The issue seems to be coming to a head. Some prominent tech folks are deleting their Facebook accounts in protest.

In fact, there has been a big spike in search traffic on Google for people looking to “delete facebook” or “delete facebook account” as you can see here in this graph:

Facebook Privacy

What’s the fuss about?

Well over the years Facebook has steadily made more of their users’ data more publicly available, and most folks probably don’t realize it is happening. Matt MaKeon did up a Facebook privacy graphic that makes it easy to see the changes.

Not only is Facebook making things more public by default, but they have made managing your privacy incredibly complex. At the same time their terms of service keep getting longer and more convoluted. The New York Times has a great graphic that shows the Facebook privacy madness. You’ve really got to click through that link on the NYT. Some feel that Facebook has intentionally made managing privacy overly complex with the expectation that users will not bother and keep everything open and not private.

That way Facebook can sell more targeted advertising.

Beyond Privacy on Facebook

There are even some in the industry like Jason Calcanis who see bigger problems with Facebook. Jason claims that the core issue is a lack of integrity with Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Now I don’t know if all Jason says is true or not, or if he has any personal motivations behind his anti-Facebook stance. But he makes a rather compelling case. And Jeff Jarvis over at BuzzMachine points also out some glaring problems with Facebook.

What I do know is that trust is the foundation of a successful business. Should Facebook loose their users’ trust they may find a mass exodus taking place.

Well, unless you have a monopoly, that is. You don’t need your customers to trust you if you are the only game in town. Right now, at this very moment, Facebook has near monopoly status because they are so massively huge.

However things can change rapidly on the internet. It is entirely possible that another site could come along and displace Facebook as the social media site of preference, just like Facebook pushed aside MySpace.

What You Need To Know

What does all this fuss mean to you?

For now, the bottom line is you need to keep an eye on your own privacy settings on Facebook. That means you should go in and check them every couple of months. Make sure you are sharing the information you want shared with the people you want to share it with.

Personally I don’t have a problem with much of my Facebook info being shared. But you might have a problem with that.

Don’t trust that the settings will necessarily stay where you set them either. In theory they should. But in the immortal words of Yogi Berra,

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice.
In practice there is.

Last week’s video on ChrisCree.TV I showed how to check your Facebook privacy settings. You can watch it here:

One thing I found since I recorded that video is a great tool to help you keep an eye on your settings: the Facebook Privacy Scanner. Just drag their bookmarklette to your browser bookmarks bar and you can click it to see a series of scans of your Facebook privacy settings and get warnings about your settings anytime you want.

And that’s what you need to know about your Facebook Privacy settings.

What’s your opinion on all the fuss?


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