April 23, 2010, 3:12 PM
By RIVA RICHMOND
This week, Facebook’s introduced the “open graph,” a giant expansion of the “social graph” concept on which Facebook is built. The word “open” alone should be a tip-off that there are significant new privacy issues to weigh.
In the open graph, Facebook sees us as connected not just to other people – our friends — on Facebook, but to myriad things all over the Web. These things could be favorite bands, news outlets or restaurants. It’s a potentially powerful idea – Facebook wants to uncover all these interests and predilections and let us share them with our friends, whether we’re at Facebook or somewhere else, in ways that could deepen personal connections and help us discover cool and interesting information.
But there’s a price paid in privacy. Facebook deems these “connections” to interests and businesses and content to be public information — along with your name, profile picture, gender and friend list. And it intends to make them very public through new “social plugins” and “instant personalization”.
If you like the idea of broadcasting which articles and bands and restaurants you like, you’re in luck. But if you’d rather keep your personal preferences private, beware. The instructions on how to reverse it are below, after the jump.
Soon, Facebook users will be invited to declare “connections” while on other Web sites by using several new Facebook buttons and features, all identified by the Facebook icon, including opportunities to write comments about content on these sites. (Site developers will add them using Facebook’s new social plug-ins.)
If you click a Like button or make a comment, know that you’re authorizing Facebook to publish it on your Facebook profile and in your friends’ news feeds. Also, when Facebook friends of yours visit the same site, they may be informed about what content you recommended or added there, and you will see their activity, too. Facebook says it will not share any of your data with these sites.
If you don’t want your activity to be published publicly, don’t use these Facebook features.
Facebook also wants to expand your “personal and social experience” on the Web by marrying your life on Facebook with your existence on partner Web sites — for now, limited to Windows Docs, Pandora and Yelp, but expect that list to grow. It will let these sites use your public Facebook information — again, your name, profile picture, gender, and “connections” — so they can, say, tip you off to bands and watering holes that your friends recommend.
There has been some controversy about instant personalization, because Facebook has automatically opted in its 400 million plus users. TechCrunchreports some Google employees are so disturbed that they are unplugging from Facebook altogether by deactivating their accounts.
Facebook has been walking users through the new arrangement and related settings, including presenting them with an opportunity to opt out. You can also reach the settings and opt-out via the Applications and Web sites page. Click “Edit Setting” beside Instant Personalization and uncheck the box on the next page beside “Allow select partners to instantly personalize their features with my public information when I first arrive on their websites.” You can also opt out by clicking “No Thanks” in a blue Facebook bar that will appear at the top of each partner site the first time you visit.
Note that even if you opt out, your friends can still share public Facebook information about you to personalize their experiences on these sites unless you block each of their applications manually. To do that, visit the “Applications Settings – Authorized” page and scroll down to the “External Websites” section, click “Profile” for each application and then the “Block Application” link on the top left of the profile page.