Facebook is a part of everyday life for many of us, but in the last couple of weeks it has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. Users of the site have expressed their dissatisfaction of the complex privacy controls. In response to this Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg commented “sometimes we move too fast – and after listening to recent concerns, we’re responding. Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark”. Now we’ve heard the news that they were going to make the controls simpler, starting today.
So what are the issues here with privacy and why has it caused such a stir? In short, users can visit the privacy section of the site and opt in and out of certain things – for example allowing photos you have uploaded to only be seen by your friends or people in your network or restricting the visibility of your contact info. The list goes on and on and quite frankly it is very complex – so much so that there is actually a manual you can download which details all the different options you have!
So Facebook plans to make the issue of privacy much easier for users and one particular issue that we believe needs urgent attention is the use of Facebook’s new social plugins and we came across a shocking piece on this very issue written by Roger Thompson of AVG. The article explains how Roger was surfing the web to catch up on the day’s news when he noticed the site he was on (CNN.COM) had a live feed of his Facebook friends activity! What was odd was Roger was not logged on to either CNN nor had his Facebook account open.
So why was happening? It turns out that hundreds of website are using the social plugins that Facebook introduced at the recent F8 Developers Conference which are designed to show which of your friends are voting ‘like’ on a particular sites news stories – and if you happen to be visiting the same sites it will show your friends new feeds. But how is this happening if you are not logged into the site in question? The social plugins are using Facebook Connect which was designed to be a ‘Single Sign On’ for the web – in other words you log on to Facebook once, and when you visit other sites, it logs you on to the site using the Facebook credentials already provided!
We certainly didn’t know this and were quite amazed that this was actually happening – the message here and what Roger suggests is “If you want to stop this type of behaviour, and thus do not want to see the stories that your friends are interested in as they visit the web, simply click “Log Out” of Facebook. This is something that no one really does. Simply, closing a Facebook tab or window DOES NOT log you out of Facebook. I think the user community needs to be educated specifically on this.”
We agree with Roger and have certainly taken note – what do you think? We’d certainly like to know – let’s hope that Facebook addresses this issues soon!