Jason Calacanis make a great post in his newsletter this week, and asked whether Facebook was unethical, clueless or unlucky. This however is half the story. What nobody seems to have realised yet, is that Facebook have ended up sharing your private information, via your friends’ lack of privacy control.
We still have a fair amount of control over our own privacy through Facebook’s privacy controls. However, Facebook have now decided (in all their wisdom) to allow people to publish their wall posts. This means that Facebook have created a back door, around your privacy settings, and now, anyone can view your status updates, pictures and anything else you post, when your friends “like” or “comment” on your content in Facebook.
Let’s take Jason Calacanis as an example here. Jason has allowed Facebook to show his wall publicly. I presume he’ll change this fairly quickly, so here’s a screenshot of what I can see at the moment.
However the problem doesn’t stop there. Facebook has always employed a security through obscurity methodology when it came to photos. That meant that you could easily “share” photos with people that weren’t on Facebook, but they needed to know the exact link. You might have also noticed that if someone shared one photo, you also had the link to the rest of the photos in that album. Randi Zuckerberg’s photo album for instance is linked in the “Back to Album” link. No security is employed here, thus any user, as long as they have the link to one picture, has access to all of the photos in that album. Now that is public, and not just limited to your friends via other public walls of your friends.
You can prevent friends from interacting with your content in the future, including preventing friends from posting on your wall, and commenting on photos. You can set “Posts by Friends” and “Comments on posts” to yourself only, but this rather destroys the basic ethos of Facebook. Worst of all, the status updates are a static archive, so if you prevent friends from commenting on your photos today, any previous “comments and likes” will still remain in their Wall history.
So, how can you stop this? The basic answer is that you can’t. You can protect all of your content through the privacy controls, but you can’t prevent your friends from sharing their walls as well. If just one of your friends has shared their wall, then potentially your private content is left open to the world, through what I think is the worst, most public back-door-fuck-up that Facebook has made to date.