Infographic of the Day: Privacy on Facebook Is Vanishing

Privacy has become an "opt-in" feature on Facebook—and that has massively changed the service.

Facebook privacy settings are eroding. But the scope and speed of that transformation has happened fairly quietly—maybe because we've never before had an infographic that lays all the changes out.

The chart was a personal project created by Matt McKeon, who by day is a researcher at IBM's Visual Communication Lab (where Fernanda Viegas used to work).

It's concentric rings show the groups who can see a given slice of information, if you leave the default settings in place. Here's the service in 2005:

Facebook privacy infographic

In 2009: Facebook privacy infographic

And now:Facebook privacy infographic

Of course, these are obviously all default settings, and if you're concerned, you can readily change access to your profile.

But it does show that Facebook has transformed itself in the last five years from a service were privacy was an opt-out feature, to one where privacy is opt-in. As any behavioral economist will tell you, that single difference can massively affect the choices people make. Facebook might easily claim, "Hey! You can change things as you wish!" But in fact, they've created a massive shift in the privacy settings of Facebook as a whole.

Why would they make those changes? The less privacy there is in general, the more irresistible Facebook becomes, because you can snoop on other people far more. And figure out exactly what to sell them.

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1 Comments

  • Jörn Steinz

    Thanks a lot for highlighting this development. To me the incredible thing is that Facebook is allowed to do such general changes without the explicit consent of the individual user.
    Best regards,
    Joern
    http://www.mydecision.eu/