“I like Foursquare because I can actually pick who sees where I actually am, compared to Facebook, where I have 1,200 friends,” she said. “I don’t want 1,200 people knowing where I am.” Facebook does let users pick a smaller subgroup of friends who can see location updates, but Ms. Lovelidge said it would be too much trouble to set that up.
Emphasis mine. This isn’t lost on Facebook. Zuckerberg himself said: “But guess what? Nobody wants to make lists”.
The problem is that for every Ms. Lovelidge who at least acknowledges the risk and avoids it, there will be 10 others completely oblivious to the risks.
One great lesson here is that you can’t change the paradigm and assume an old security model, in this case the “friends” network will continue to work. This is the equivalent to turning a store into a private residence without bothering to replace the open store front with a more traditional door.
Twice in a weeks time [1, 2] I’ve suggested that teens in particular have more “friends” than friends. AOL apparently did some of the research for me regarding the prevalence:
…more than half of the children surveyed (54%) don’t personally know all of the friends…
54% of teens surveyed don’t know all their “friends”. Facebook defaults the privacy settings on places to “friends”. 54% of children surveyed will likely be sharing their current location with people they don’t personally know. Places will catch on, especially once the check-in games start coming up and it becomes more fun and competitive. Half will likely share their location with people they don’t know.
Think about this for a second. Just a few years ago society would have found the idea of teenagers revealing their current location to people they don’t even personally know to be insanity.
It’s easy to fix, just setup a group and include/exclude as desired. The problem is awareness of the problem is low. Also problematic is the desire and patience to sort through several hundred “friends” and bucket people.
It would also be easy for Facebook to fix by forcing users to either select specific groups or individuals rather than just defaulting to the overly broad “friends”. They have the UI, and it’s actually pretty good (I’ve got some gripes, but they don’t apply to 99.9% of the population) they just don’t make users go through it for the sake of simplicity.
Decisions on who qualifies as a friend may have been made a few years ago when the risks were different and content being exposed was much less harmful. Letting a stranger see your obnoxious status update is different than letting them know where you are.
Facebook is mutating. The problem is that the original social graph isn’t built for this mutation. And we’re going to see that very clearly with things like this new location element.
I’d argue MG Siegler is brighter and more in tune to this sort of thing than 90%+ of Facebook users. Perhaps 99%. If he just realized this now, it’s going to take a long time for the more casual user to catch on.
As I wrote last week, the term “friend” has been grossly distorted over the past few years. I strongly suspect the most at risk users are the ones who distorted it the most. Defaulting things like Places to “friends” isn’t good enough.
You’ll be seeing more about this in the press over the coming several months. This is going to get messy as people leak information they didn’t intend to.
Facebook made some peculiar decisions in the privacy rules for Facebook Places. The problem is hardly just a technical limitation, it’s endemic of the way social media has altered society and technology must help the user be aware and workaround it.
I always thought it would be fun to locate some classic TV locations and find them on Google Maps. Here’s some of the more interesting things I’ve found in my research. Each photo is a link to Google maps with the actual location should you want to pan around your favorite neighborhoods.