Facebook Yields to User Privacy Concerns

Facebook Yields to User Privacy Concerns

Thursday Facebook announced the introduction of new services that would give their users more control over the privacy of what they post on the social site.

Unlike the trend that has been the case since Facebook allowed its users to share their posts publicly in 2009, where the default setting per post would be ‘Public’; new users joining the site shall have their default setting reduced to ‘Friends’.

The former default setting meant that any status update, photo, video or post on private information would be accessible to anyone using the website. This would remain so unless the Facebook user customizes the privacy of their particular post to something less public- general friends, friends within a given locality, close friends or ‘only me’.

Critics have since noted that these setting would be too intricate especially for new users. It would take a lot of effort and learning to acquaint oneself with all the settings and their procedures that allow people to set different permissions for nearly every item on a user’s profile.

This new service however will allow people joining Facebook as from Thursday to have their audience reduced to their friends only, until they adjust the settings. “…it is worse to accidentally over share than to accidentally under share,” said a Facebook Inc official in defense of the new service.

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The service will not apply to the 1.28 billion existing subscribers of Facebook. For them there is even better news.

Facebook has introduced a privacy check up component that will guide its users about the state of their current privacy settings. Every time a person releases a new post the privacy checker will pop up in the form of a blue dinosaur with the polite message, “Sorry to interrupt. You haven’t changed who can see your posts lately, so we just wanted to make sure you are sharing this post with the right audience”.

The message will be followed with a brief reminder of what your current privacy setting is, and an option allowing the user to learn more information.

The choice of the cartoon dinosaur as the service icon has raised a lot of debate prompting some writers to dab it Zuckasaurus, a name drawn from that of the company’s co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

According to Facebook, this choice was landed after a series of trials of other options including speech bubbles and a robot. All these did not seem much appealing and as a result the Zuckasaurus was made the ultimate choice.

This move by Facebook seems to spring from a number of factors guided by the interplay of market forces and stakeholder concerns. User privacy activists have lately been reported to be hard on Facebook while more of the groups have been on the boom.

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Consideration of the rate at which Facebook has been losing subscribers to competing social media sites with more user centered privacy details like Twitter and Snapchat is said to be a possible reason for the recent privacy measures undertaken by the company.  This could be supported by the Fact that Facebook recently sought to acquire one of these sites, WhatsApp, at the cost of US$ 19 billion.

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