There was a time when one of your Facebook account or privacy settings allowed you to disable your “recent activity” from appearing in the newsfeed or on your wall. That went away sometime in the latest year (with profile update 10102029309808098, I think). Facebook completely removed the option to hide your recent activity and instead what you now saw was something like “Bobbi Newman wrote on John Doe’s wall” I and a lot of other people were annoyed by this. I don’t need Facebook notifying all my friends each time I talk to one of them. Some people just learned to deal with the feed, others like me, deleted all of this activity when they get back to a computer.
Last week Facebook started rolling out its latest and greatest profile update. At first I was merely annoyed with it. Why is my job, education, current city, hometown and langauge front and center on my profile. Don’t my friends already know this? It really felt like another push from Facebook to be The One Site. It bothered me because I know a lot of new people are using Facebook everyday, people who don’t understand Facebook’s privacy settings, agenda and policies. They aren’t looking to showcase their work they are looking to connect with friends and family, and Facebook is pushing them to use the site professionally. Something we know will most likely not end well.
Tonight I noticed something new instead of saying “Bobbi Newman wrote on John Doe’s wall” it actually tells you exactly what I wrote. Even if you are not friends with John Doe. Even if his account is set to private.
I know there are people who will say – if you don’t want it see don’t post it. Whatever. They are missing the point. The point is this – That while this conversation may have taken place in a quasi-public sphere there is NO indication that I wanted this conversation broadcast. (I could argue that if my friends page is private and locked down that this was a private conversation but let’s just call it quasi-private since it happened on Facebook)
We seem to run into the same issue with Facebook’s privacy settings over and over. There is a huge difference in something being publicly available and it being publicized.
Think of it this way you and I are sitting in a coffee shop having a conversation at a table. This is a public venue so our conversation is happening in a public place, but it is just us and we’re conversing quietly so we have an assumption of some level of privacy. Now the guy next to us on his laptop with his headphones on could be listening but chances are he is not. So while this conversation is public it is not being broadcast or recorded.
Now imagine we are sitting in the same coffee shop in the same scenario and the guy at the table next to us is not only listening but he is recording our conversation and broadcasting it to people in the coffee shop and people on the street.
The first scenario accurately reflects how people treat Facebook conversations, we know we’re in public but we assume (right or wrong) that no one is listening or recording. Which is easy to do on Facebook despite past experiences because so much falls off the page in a few days and you forget it ever happened. What Facebook is doing in this latest update is the later scenario.
Even worse you’re given NO choice. I know there has been a lot of controversy of some of Facebook’s Privacy changes over the last couple of years but in most cases you could change your settings to modify these problems. In this case you can not. Facebook is now broadcasting all of your conversations.
What really kills me is I was looking for stories on this issue and I can’t find any. No one seems to care. Maybe we’re so used to being violated by Facebook we don’t even notice any more.
More about this issue:
- Facebook Tests Full Text Comment Stories in the Recent Activity Feed
- Beware of Facebook Recent Activity – video
Read more about Facebook and privacy in general
- What’s at Stake With Facebook is Not Privacy or Publicity But Informed Consent and Choice
- Facebook and “radical transparency” (a rant)
- Making Sense of Privacy and Publicity
- Why, despite myself, I am not leaving Facebook. Yet.
- Facebook is a utility; utilities get regulated