The One Privacy Setting Facebook Forgot

Have you adjusted your privacy settings in 5 different places?  If not, your friends may be sharing your Facebook pictures, status updates, religious views and more.  Preventing your information from being used  across the web requires:

  • Visiting  Facebook’s settings for “What your friends can share about you”
  • Visiting  Facebook’s settings for “Instant Personalization”
  • Visiting Yelp
  • Visiting Microsoft Docs
  • Visiting Pandora

Instead of requiring 5 steps (a quintuple opt out!), Facebook should offer one setting, which allows you to easily opt out of sharing your data unless you give permission.

It seems like every year Facebook automatically ensures its members share more data with the world.  In 2007, Facebook Beacon automatically shared what members bought, without their permission.  In 2009 new privacy settings automatically defaulted most members information to the public.  Now, Facebook is looking to your friends to make your data public.  Senator Schumer is being polite when he says, “This opt out procedure is confusing, unclear, and you might even say hidden”.

It might be acceptable if this was the only place where you had to go to opt out of sharing:

Facebook privacy setting

In the image above, you’ll see the top privacy setting area is for your personal information.  However, there are now more privacy settings that control where your personal information gets shared. The settings below are not located in “Personal information and Posts”–they’re in “Applications and Websites”.

Facebook privacy setting

In fact, after exploring all the options above, in “Applications and Websites” area, I came across these settings for “Instant Personalization”:

Facebook privacy setting

I thought I’d click to “Learn More”.  That led to a long list of Q&A, where I found this:

Facebook privacy setting

So, it turns out that to ensure my past comments and pictures stay private, I need to visit each “instant personalization partner” of Facebook and opt out.  After doing some research, the Electronic Frontier Foundation confirms that only way to fully opt out of Instant Personalization is to take all these steps.  If you don’t take all these steps, your friends may unknowingly share all your past activity on Facebook.

Facebook says it requires Yelp, Microsoft and Pandora offer “an easy and prominent method for users to opt out”.   It would be nice if Facebook took its own medicine.  Here is a proposed privacy setting:

Proposed Facebook Privacy Setting

Facebook could define partners as applications, advertisers, and third party websites. They could offer more detailed options.  But the general idea is to make it a double opt-in system (1. you say you’ll share, 2. you say which partners to share to) rather than a quintuple opt-out system.

What do you think?  Should Facebook offer one easy and prominent method to opt out of sharing?

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