What should new Facebook users expect to share?
Facebook announced a new messaging service this week, that will attempt to combine SMS, chat and email into one. Nobody appears entirely sure of the point, feeling it smacks of a Google-Wavesque misplaced ambition to revolutionise a process we're reasonably happy with, thanks very much.
It also raised a lot of sniggering at the back of the IT crowd, with many expressing concern of relying on Facebook for anything so important as email, given its past record with personal privacy. And that led us to take another look at Facebook's privacy settings.
In terms of your profile settings, we know they can be customised to reveal everything or (next to) nothing to people you're not connected to. But what does Facebook itself recommend? How do they suggest you share your personal and private information with others? You may have seen the 'recommended' privacy settings already, but if not:
While Facebook believes contact information and your whereabouts via Facebook Places should be kept amongst friends, your status updates, photo libraries and posts should be fair game to share with the world.
On the one hand, this isn't so surprising; Facebook has made plenty of tweaks and changes to emulate Twitter - whereas Twitter's default setting is to be opted-out of privacy so all actions are public, Facebooks default setting was always to be opted-into privacy. The problem Facebook faces is that it's difficult to grow if information can't be openly shared.
On the other hand, the perception is that Facebook is still very much about personal connections, rather than broadcasting your thoughts and feelings in public. The only way to avoid sharing any personal information is not to publish it online in the first place, but Facebook continues to grow with plenty of our friends, family and colleagues signing up all the time. If nothing else, it's worth a friendly word about privacy settings before they share too much about themselves, since Facebook's own recommendations doesn't have their best interests at heart.