Facebook Privacy Policy Explained: It's Longer Than The Constitution

Facebook Privacy Policy, Settings Explained

Recent changes to Facebook's privacy policies have made users' information far more public than ever before: much personal data is now public by default, some of which is being shared with third-party sites.

But say you'd prefer to keep your profile private--opting out of sharing so much is no easy task.

Facebook's privacy settings have become increasingly complex and confusing, and require users to click through a bewildering maze of options in order to rein-in what they share.

"To manage your privacy on Facebook, you will need to navigate through 50 settings with more than 170 options," notes the New York Times, which has produced a detailed graphic presenting the "tangle of options" with which users are confronted.

Facebook's 2010 privacy policy is now 5,830 words long--several thousand words longer than the privacy policies for sites like Flickr, Twitter, MySpace, and Friendster. It's even longer than the Constitution (4,543 words).

While Facebook argues that their settings offer the "most comprehensive and detailed controls" for their users, the dizzying array of options might also prevent many Facebook users from making any changes at all.

Keep things too simple, and everyone can understand them but advanced users won't have enough control to tweak the settings the way they want to. That leads to Facebook making decisions for people--a dangerous system. But if you provide every conceivable permutation of privacy setting, you'll confuse the hell out of the people who just want to make one tiny bit of information invisible. That leads to users thinking, "screw it." And that comes to the same result: Facebook makes decisions for people.

Facebook knows that their users are confused--Elliot Schrage, Facebook's vice president for public policy noted their efforts "appear to be too confusing for some of our more than 400 million users."--but what they'll do about it remains to be seen. All Facebook reports that the company is holding an "all hands meeting on privacy" on Thursday, May 13.

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