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Facebook Users Still Confused by Privacy Changes

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It looks like Facebook still has a lot of work to do to explain its recent privacy guideline changes and those it’s proposing to alter. In a blog post, the company says many of 4,000 comments it received in the last week either requested features that already exist or showed a misunderstanding of the company’s policies and procedures. The social network’s communications and public policy director, Barry Schnitt, says it got comments “from people around the world, including users, regulators, and online privacy advocates” responding to the changes, both those that have taken effect and those that are being proposed. The new policies were described in a post by general counsel Michael Richter on March 26.

The Facebook spokesman says that some commenters asked to be able to hide their Friends List, but notes: “[T]his is something that people already have the ability to do. We announced this feature back in December, and you can read more about it in our Help Center.” Others apparently had questions with regards to Facebook requiring users to provide accurate information about themselves, and limiting them to one account, but as Schnitt notes, “These are not new requirements. Facebook has always been based on a real-name culture.” The company reiterated that policy in a response to a post we did recently on younger users changing their names to hide their activities from potential employers.

[related-posts align=”right”] The Facebook policy director says that other commenters misunderstood how the company handles user data. They asked that their information not be shared with advertisers, he says, which “reflects a common misconception about advertising on Facebook. We don’t share your information with advertisers unless you tell us to (e.g. to get a sample, hear more, or enter a contest). Any assertion to the contrary is false. Period. Instead, we enable advertisers to target anonymized demographics and attributes.” Other users raised questions about a new proposal by Facebook that would see certain information shared with “pre-approved partner websites” to offer “a personalized experience” to users who go to that site and are logged into Facebook. Schnitt writes:

It’s important to underscore that this will be a test with a handful of carefully selected partners to provide express personalization on their sites. These partners will be pre-selected, reviewed, and bound by contracts with Facebook – much like other partners we have worked with in other contexts to deliver unique and innovative experiences.

Schnitt says the new documents related to Facebook’s Privacy Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities will be “live on the site in the coming days.” Given the company’s recent history with its changes, there will undoubtedly be even more concerns and confusion once the new policies are posted.

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11 Responses to “Facebook Users Still Confused by Privacy Changes”

  1. fwiw, as of today, you can hide friends. facebook’s own guidelines are inaccurate. specifically, when they say “your friend list is always visible to you and your friends,” this is simply FALSE.

    if I check the privacy box, my friends are concealed: not only from strangers, but from EVERYONE. only MUTUAL friends can be pulled up by my friends via “see all” on my profile.

    this is not just a quirk with my account. I have around 200 friends; most of them allow me to see their entire friends list, but more than one of them have friend lists that only reveal mutual friends. (however, strangers will still be able to see the 6, 9 or 12 friends whose pictures you choose to display….)

    the problem with the current situation, obviously, is if you want to keep strangers from shuffling through your friend list, you can only do so by also keeping your friends from doing so!

  2. Dominique

    Hello from France,

    I am a member of Facebook France.
    And as the other members around the world, we can NOT hide our friends to our own friends.
    It’s possible to hide the names to the people we are not friends with. But all our friends may see our “already” friends.

    The FB’s managers lie totally when they argue to make our life more private. With the latest policy and settings, our life is more exposed.

    Morever, now, the other people may see:
    – when you add a friend, join a groupe/page, participate to an event, write to the wall of the event…
    It’s awful.

    Even if you erase the information on your wall, all these activities are still present for your “friends”. I checked several times with another account.

    If the situation does not change, I’ll leave FB or I will not do as I wanted to do when I subscribed. It’s a pity not to use it entirely…
    At the beginning, FB was a good idea.

    Have a nice week-end (with advance)

    (sorry for my mistakes)

  3. Maguire

    Well Facebook needs to step up their game a little bit because I’m a full grown adult and still can’t figure out all of their privacy settings. The site is not user friendly enough yet.

    There is an interview series of social media pros that you may enjoy.
    The articles cover an array of topics regarding the current trends and changes in social media, and how it reshaping the future of media and journalism.

  4. fjpoblam

    EFF has kept track of FB’s progress. Check their comments at

    Regarding FB’s December change to Friends List privacy settings, EFF says, “This is certainly an improvement, but it still falls short of the level of control that users had prior to the overhaul. Users are still unable to hide their friend lists from some or all of their friends, or from third-party Facebook applications which their friends install. In addition, the checkbox is in a counterintuitive and difficult to find location, entirely separate from most user privacy settings.

    Facebook’s ostensible goal in this overhaul was to give users more clarity, flexibility and control. But, with friend lists, they’ve accomplished exactly the opposite.”

    • Jay Margolis

      They’ve got a fair number of people fooled into thinking this is “user confusion” when in fact they made this massive policy change to prevent hiding your friend list from some of your friends. The problem is most people don’t really understand the nuances so Facebook’s obfuscation of the issue generally suffices. FB is depending on exactly that.

  5. Jay Margolis

    RE: “commenters asked to be able to hide their Friends List, but notes: “[T]his is something that people already have the ability to do”

    This is a lie. Before the changes, we could hide our friend list from friends. After the changes, we cannot hide our friend list from friends. Facebook is continually trying to hide this fact in obfuscated words and it represents a major privacy setback. Your friend list is the whole privacy issue on facebook. It’s the most valuable data they have and they force you to show it to every single person on your list.