Facebook: Privacy, Complexity, and the Like Button

Posted in Social Media by diptoe on May 9, 2010

I started to leave a simple comment on a recent blog post by Thomas Baekdal, and ended up writing far more than I intended. The basic premise of his article is that Facebook’s complexity and privacy issues are killing it. I’m not sure I agree that it’s dying (at least not anytime soon), but he has some very good points. From my perspective…

1. Facebook’s default lack of privacy, and a simple way to control said privacy, is killing my experience.

A few years ago privacy wasn’t much of a concern – only my friends and networks had access. Matt McKeon and Kurt Opsahl did an excellent job of highlighting the changes since then – and they are almost mind-boggling. Now when I hear of a new update, I have to go through the hassle of reviewing every one of my privacy settings just to make sure nothing changed.

2. I agree with Baekdal that the site is becoming increasingly complex.

Facebook privacy settings are complicated and buried under several pages. Doing simple tasks like creating and managing a Facebook page can get difficult fast, and finding help for anything on the site is near-impossible. Google answers Facebook help problems faster than Facebook help does.

3. As for the Like button…

It was a brilliant move by Zuck & Co., but it feels like a privacy land mine. Robert Scoble loves it – I’m undecided. It’s cool to go to a website and see which of my friends liked similar articles… but what’s up with also showing me random people I don’t even know that also Liked it? Does that mean if I Like a particular CNN article then random persons across the universe are going to see that? There’s also no way to indicate exactly what or why you’re Liking something. That has good and bad implications. I might Like an article about the Metra director committing suicide, but there’s no way to clarify that I’m endorsing the article, not the suicide.

Facebook needs simplicity and transparency. An opt-in system would be nice for when changes are made. And one (simple) privacy page to rule them all. Not sure what to recommend about the Like button. Any thoughts?


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