Think Facebook privacy is bad? Openbook will shock you

May 26, 2010, 2:55 AM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

“While I don’t think it’s right that Facebook’s privacy policy is a moving target, I also don’t think it’s right that people are blaming a third party for their OWN piss-poor decisions.” Chris Pirillo

Facebook introduced new, simplified privacy settings today. The company is trying to appease some of its 400 million users who only want to reveal personal information or vacation and party pictures to select strangers, not the whole world.

FacebookPrivacy Every time the social media site changes anything, some users worry that too much of their information is being shared without their knowledge. Facebook’s most recent privacy control changes in April confused a lot of people.

After that, four U.S. senators asked the Federal Trade Commission do something about Facebook. A Quit Facebook Day protest is planned for next week. People have been posting this status update: Privacy is a matter of safety and security, not personal preference . And finally, earlier this week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally said, okay, okay, okay the site’s privacy settings are too complex. He didn’t apologize, but said, “We missed the mark.”

Here’s what makes Facebook privacy overwhelming. It’s not as simple as clicking one or two or even a dozen options for locking up your personal info. A New York Times graphic shows there are more than 50 Facebook settings, with 170 options, to navigate regarding privacy. And Facebook likes to keep information open and accessible, so you have to opt-out of many settings.

Again, much of this has been simplified today.

But do people have a right to demand privacy on a free social media platform, where they’re voluntarily sharing information about themselves?

Seattle tech writer Renay San Miguel, with TechNewsWorld, says personal responsibility has a role in this debate because it’s hard to demand privacy on anything Internet-related.

“The very nature of social media calls for openness, and if I’m of age and have a certain measure of intelligence, I’m not going to give you risky personal information that I’m going to regret handing over in the future,” says San Miguel.

Author Scott Berkun, a former Microsoft manager, reminds us Facebook is free to join and free to quit.

“People have the right to *ask* for whatever they want, but it doesn’t mean a corporation is obligated to give it to them,” says Berkun.

Berkun finds it interesting that Facebook competitors haven’t stepped in saying “join us, we’ll respect your privacy.”

One site has popped up exposing Facebook’s confusing privacy settings. It’s called Openbook, where you can search any key word or phrase and discover all the unprotected status updates and pictures. To the shock of many, they’re making the point that Facebook users expose a lot of information they probably thought was private.

For example, do a search on “divorce” and you find thousands of people with status updates like: “divorce became final today, wish I could start my whole life over” or “I was official served with divorce papers today.”

I don’t think these people know they’re telling everyone about their divorces. Of the pages I clicked on, all had their profiles set so only friends can view their pages, but they didn’t go the extra step of protecting their status updates too. Confusing? Yes. Simplified today with the Facebook changes? Yes.

Even so, Chris Pirillo says people shouldn’t blame a third party for “their own piss-poor decisions.” The Seattle-based tech guru produces weekly video segments for CNN.

“Don’t blame Facebook for letting loose photos of you doing things you shouldn’t have been doing; you (a) shouldn’t have been doing them, (b) never have published those activities online for anyone to see, or (c) should have selected “friends” you could trust,” says Pirillo.

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Think Facebook privacy is bad? Openbook will shock you