If you use Facebook, don’t wait to change your privacy settings
“Certain categories of information such as your name, profile photo, list of friends and pages you are a fan of, gender, geographic region, and networks you belong to are considered publicly available to everyone, including Facebook-enhanced applications, and therefore do not have privacy settings. You can, however, limit the ability of others to find this information through search using your search privacy settings.”
Even among those aware that changes have occurred, many Facebook users may not realize that unless and until a user takes explicit action to modify privacy settings, the new changes have overwritten any previous disclosure preferences expressed by those users. The global default seems to make profile information and content users store on Facebook available to all friends and friends of friends (a setting Facebook calls “Friends and Network”) which for many users is a substantial increase in the user population that now has access to their information. Also, because the changes went into effect for all users, the new settings remain in effect until a user changes his or her own privacy settings, something users are prompted to do the first time they log in to Facebook since the change occurred.
There is a precedent for Facebook reconsidering moves broadly deemed to be too invasive of privacy, and there are explicit terms within Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (see part 13, “Amendments”) that allow for unpopular changes to be put to a vote of the membership, although for the vote to be binding requires 30% of active users (or approximately 105 million based on current total user estimates) to participate. A couple of years ago, Facebook ultimately chose to cancel its controversial Beacon program after widespread outcry over the advertising application’s reach into online behavioral tracking. It remains to be seen whether enough users are sufficiently upset by the latest Facebook changes to mount a coordinated effort to roll back to the previous privacy settings and approach.