A time line of Facebook’s ever morphing privacy issue

As Facebook moves forward with its plans to assimilate us all into their version of what the Web is there is a cacophony of voices being raised over how it is manipulating its users. Much as Google has faced a lot flack over its failing to live up to its original motto of “do no evil” Facebook is having to face some pretty stiff questions about its deviating from one of its founding principals – user’s privacy.

So it was interesting to read the post over at Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) as they laid out a timetable of how Facebook’s privacy stance has changed over the years since its inception. I five short years the service has gone from being where the user’s privacy was paramount to today where its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is reported to have said that privacy isn’t important anymore and that if he had to do it over again everything would be public.

The EFF post starts with Facebook’s privacy policy circa 2005 with this tidbit

No personal information that you submit to Thefacebook will be available to any user of the Web Site who does not belong to at least one of the groups specified by you in your privacy settings.

This changes in 2007 to read something like this

Profile information you submit to Facebook will be available to users of Facebook who belong to at least one of the networks you allow to access the information through your privacy settings (e.g., school, geography, friends of friends). Your name, school name, and profile picture thumbnail will be available in search results across the Facebook network unless you alter your privacy settings

Then in 2009 their policy underwent two significant changes of which this was part of the last change

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.

And finally in April of this year some of the most major changes yet

When you connect with an application or website it will have access to General Information about you. The term General Information includes your and your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections, and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting…. The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to “everyone.”… Because it takes two to connect, your privacy settings only control who can see the connection on your profile page. If you are uncomfortable with the connection being publicly available, you should consider removing (or not making) the connection.

As well there is the whole issue in the past day or two with the forced connection of your profile to pages. So it would seem that Facebook is far from dismantling any shred of user privacy as a foundation of the service.

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