Shortly after Facebook announced changes to its privacy settings in December 2009, a number of digital security specialists identified that the changes could lead to breaches of privacy for users who do not carefully review the new settings.
Philip Keightley, Account Director at Punch Communications said: “From the perspective of search engine visibility, clearly the changes in settings that Facebook announced are going to be hugely beneficial to the brand. By encouraging users to share and socialize more of their personal information, be that intentionally or through apathy, or not understanding the changes, Facebook content will be increasingly visible for search engines.”
With the explosion in social network usage and many users signed up to numerous sites, it can be all too easy to let apathy take charge, assume the host site is representing your initial privacy settings and accept all changes, resulting in the potential for serious breaches of privacy. Philip Keightley continued: “The issue surrounding the new privacy settings are a classic case of opt in or opt out. Many users assume their default setting is opt out and that they have to actively change their settings, but this is not the case. Facebook has essentially set the default for all users to ‘share information with everyone’ and users have to actively re-set all their privacy settings. With over 350 million users, that is simply not going to happen.”
Punch Communications, specialists in digital public relations identified that this move was far from an oversight by Facebook, but carried moral question marks that could come back to haunt the social media giant. Philip Keightley said: “Regardless of the moral question mark over the opt-in, opt-out default, Facebook is risking short term gain for potential long term damage. I don’t doubt for a moment that it is not a carefully thought through gamble by Facebook, but whilst in the short and medium term the increase in content and visibility will be a massive boost from a search engine perspective, this has to be off-set by the potential long term damage of negative publicity as users respond to privacy breaches and the consequences of those privacy breaches are realised. Watch this space.”