Facebook changed my default privacy setting without telling me.

I’ve noticed over the last few weeks that a lot more friends are sharing publicly on Facebook. I thought that was reasonably interesting; maybe a sociological trend influenced by apathy towards privacy and the rise of public sharing through services like Twitter? Last night, however, when I went to share a link with my acquaintances on Facebook, I noticed a globe icon in the status update section. I closed the share dialog and checked my recent status updates, check-ins, and links. To my great surprise, everything I’ve recently shared through Facebook.com or the Facebook iPhone app in the near past, from status updates to links, photos, and even check-ins, has been public. I never opted into this and as far as I know, Facebook never even popped a dialog telling me they had changed the default privacy settings on Facebook.com.

I went to check my privacy settings to see if they had been changed from my custom setting. Nope! Still “Custom,” under the section titled “Control your Default Privacy” (image below). “So there must be a bug in Facebook that’s mixing up my settings - nothing new, Facebook always has lots of bugs,” I thought. And then I read the fine print - “Default Privacy” only applies to apps, now. At some point, the default for Facebook.com and mobile apps changed to “whatever you shared last” and presumably got reset to “Public” when this was changed.

Facebook Default Privacy Settings Dialog

I never trusted Facebook to be even remotely private. To start with, I have over 1000 friends. My only criteria for accepting a friend request is that we have met once in person. But still - I didn’t imagine when I checked into Coffee Bar last weekend that the entire world could see that. That’s a little creepy.

I could stop using Facebook or delete my account over this breach of trust, but I do derive significant value from using Facebook. I have been using Twitter and Path more and more and love the simplicity and clarity of both these services and their privacy models. However, I still enjoy sharing things with a larger network of acquaintances that has at least a pretense of privacy. So I’m going to keep using Facebook. I wouldn’t mind if the EU extorted a lot of money out of Facebook over this, though :)

Has anyone else noticed this? Why am I the only one complaining?

If you read this far, you should probably follow me on Twitter.

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