If it weren’t for the ease of keeping up with friends and maintaining professional connections with Facebook, I would drop it faster than a Centaurian slug. As it is, Facebook has positioned itself as an essential part of contemporary computer technology-enabled social networking. As with so many social networks in the past decade, I can’t imagine Facebook holding on to its vaunted position forever, but it has a firm grasp on most of us for the time being. The unfortunate reality is that we exchange our use of the site for commodification of our online identity, social connections, and personal privacy.
It wasn’t until this morning that I decided to do something about the changes to Facebook had made to my information stored on their site. I knew about the new Connections feature, which allows your data to be available through the Connection links in certain parts of your profile. This also opens your data to dispersal through other people’s profiles who are similarly ‘connected.’ Also, it wasn’t too long ago that Facebook changed how much information was made available on public searches for your name.
It was when I began trying to change all of my privacy settings on Facebook to better control how I wanted my information made available and to who I wanted it made available that I discovered something rather unexpected. I raised an alarm on Twitter about some unusual applications authorized on my account, which I had not authorized–a problem that was discussed on MacWorld.com here. I was in the process of deleting these applications from my Facebook profile when my buddy Andrew Pilsch at UPenn sent me a link regarding this ‘bug.’
Not too long after that, Andrew devised and posted an elegant solution to block the new Facebook Connection ‘feature’ or as I like to think of it: the privacy Nazi-death-rape-machine. The basics: 1) Browse with Firefox, 2) Install AdBlock Pro, and 3) Add http://*.connect.facebook.*/* to your filter. Read Andrew’s blog here for the full instructions.
Some related reading for recent Facebook privacy changes, concerns, and protection:
Earlier in the day, I was wondering how some apps got slipstreamed into my account without my knowledge. Andrew directed me to this Macworld article that explains what happened. Using Franken’s instructions below, I stumbled on to this problem that Facebook claims is now fixed.
Senator Al Franken posted some instructions on how to guard your privacy settings from within Facebook here.
The EFF has a nice timeline of the erosion of personal privacy on Facebook here.
And the EFF’s article on Facebook’s Evil Interfaces here is a fun read.