Beware: How Facebook's new design mocks your privacy

We all know that Facebook doesn't have the best record when it comes to dealing with user privacy. And now Avi Charkham, has written a very detailed and interesting post at TechCrunch which shows how Facebook's new design could affect user privacy in a negative manner.

How exactly does the new design do this? As the post points out, initially when users would click on an app, a message would pop up highlighting quite clearly the kind of information the app would have access to. The new design doesn't have that.

Apps often collect personal information and also often post activities on behalf of users, and the new design doesn't highlight what the app is doing.

As Charkham points out in point number 3 of his post

In the old Design Facebook presented a detailed explanation about the “basic” information you’re about to expose to the apps you’re adding. In the new design they decided to hide that info. If you pay careful attention you’ll see a tiny little “?” symbol and if you hover over it you’ll discover that this app is about to gain access to your name, profile pic, Facebook user ID, gender, networks, list of friends and any piece of info you’ve made public on Facebook. Quite a lot of info for a 20×10 pixel tiny hidden info symbol don’t you think?!

The new Facebook app design. Screengrab.

Some might argue that users should be extra careful while clicking on app to see what information the app has access to. But as Charkham's post highlights , the problem is deeper than just users who don't read privacy instructions carefully.

Facebook's new design indeed does creates a lot of blind spots for users. What privacy information is shared by an app is not highlighted and that is a big cause of worry. Furthermore there is no way to control or change app privacy settings short of blocking them completely.

With the new timeline, privacy settings have become even more complicated. Very often app activities appear on the timeline, without user approval.

Facebook with its complicated level of settings makes it very hard for users to often figure out how exactly to block some information on the social networking site.

Last year, Ars Technica had pointed out that deleted photos were still available for Facebook users who had the direct link for a particular picture. This problem had apparently been there on Facebook since 2009.

When it comes to privacy, the onus isn't just on users  but on Facebook itself to ensure that user privacy is not scarified.

Published Date: Aug 27, 2012 04:55 pm | Updated Date: Aug 27, 2012 04:55 pm