It seems they’ll never learn. Yesterday, this pop-up introduced itself to Facebook users across the globe, and it wasn’t to the warmest of welcomes, either. Out of the millions of users who see this pop-up, roughly half can be expected to actually follow through with the indoctrination into new privacy features, while the rest will simply click the comfortable-looking “skip for now” button. Some users logged into their accounts and were never greeted with the pop-up at all, even though the changes had already taken place.
There’s an explanation for that — apparently they’re rolling this out incrementally, and it only seems like a full release because of the site’s massive user-base. Facebook’s Ana Muller explains thusly:
If you haven’t yet seen the three-step transition tool for reviewing and updating your privacy settings, you will shortly. We’re asking all 350 million people who use Facebook to go through this process and are rolling out the changes incrementally to make sure it goes smoothly. Keep in mind that you also won’t see the new Privacy Settings page until you’ve gone through the transition process.
These new changes weren’t a surprise by any means, but were actually known and expected; when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently posted his An Open Letter from Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg (I honestly never get tired of saying that, I can’t believe how pretentious that guy is…), he concentrated on the eventual phasing-out of regional networks while only mentioning the privacy update. He pointed to a post from way back in July of this year, which basically talked about Facebook’s willingness to move toward the present privacy-controls as quickly as possible. The whole thing was dragged out and veiled in maybe’s, but it’s happening now.
Is it really so bad?
The picture above is a direct screenshot of the new, ultra-simplified privacy options presented to users when they follow through with the pop-up. The settings shown in the picture are the default settings that Facebook has pre-selected for users. The move to push users to inadvertently over-share is so brazen that even the BBC said something about it in a post this morning.
I’m not even about to lie; this blog is and has always been extremely critical of Facebook, especially since breaking the story about Facebook ads and privacy earlier this year. I will, however, be fair in explaining my stance on this new round of changes.
With the sole exception of sharing posts (which I left set to “everybody”), I immediately set all options back to the right-side column. This is a personal preference, and I’ll admit that it’s one largely based on principal and a history with Facebook that’s left a bad taste in my mouth. The reason I’ve gone ahead and left the posts option public is that I usually post things that are open to anyone to see — I don’t generally get very private in Facebook status updates.
That being said, there is an issue that needs attention.
I watched somebody attempt to configure their new privacy settings without the aid of the pop-up, only to find that they hadn’t really changed at all from the hopeless jumble of confusing mess that’s already known and hated. It turns out that the shiny new simplified version is only for users who follow through with the pop-up, while everyone else is stuck with the same poorly-worded quagmire that we’ve become so accustomed to bashing. Facebook calls these legacy settings “extensive and granular” — I call them just plain shitty.
I’m one of over 350 million Facebook users. Being extremely generous, I’d be willing to say that one million users both attempt to locate and successfully navigate their way through the privacy settings, and finally affect a desired change in them. That’s being extremely generous, because we all know that the odds are heavily against that there are anywhere near that many people who even know there are privacy settings.
The number of people being manipulated into sharing more information than they’d likely choose is nothing short of mind-bending. The ad-revenue is staggering, and the information gleaned from extensive data-mining is equally astounding. Just something to think about.