Many of you probably ran into this infographic about the evolution of Privacy on Facebook. It surfed the web finding arousing interest and scandal.
It’s undeniable how Facebook has attracted the interest of the public opinion on privacy issues, because of its questionable changes to policy and default options.

I’ll try to examine this theme in the next articles, inspired by this interesting paper by Boyd and Hargittai about the relationship between Facebook and perception of privacy.
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History of Facebook and Privacy

facebook_privacy.jpg (800×301)

2004, University time

Facebook was initially a student network and in those days its privacy approach was network-centric. Starting from being available just for students enrolled at Harvard University, Facebook slowly opened his doors to the world.

2006, FB opens to public and releases News Feed

In 2006 Facebook finally became public; his privacy settings remained the same, fitting the old network-centric needs. Nevertheless, the amount of personal data requested when registering increased, beginning to include address, telephone number, occupation and other.
From this time on, Facebook began to launch new features, releasing them with privacy settings opened as default option.
Always in 2006, Facebook unveiled “News Feed” that provided users with a stream of actions taken by their Friends. None of this information was previously hidden, but the community arose against the new feature. This forced Facebook to let its users decide what information have to be shared on the stream.

2007, Beacon Advertising Platform

In 2007, Facebook introduced Beacon, an advertising platform that inserted information about shopping made on external websites into the stream of News Feed.
The paper writes about a funny story around a ring bought on sale and a wife learning of this gift (and its origin) from our well known News Feed.
Facebook discontinued Beacon in 2009.

2009, the global message

In December 2009 Facebook prompted its users with a message asking to accept some changes to privacy options. Many of them passively accepted what proposed; the result was that, in a click, many users let most of their contents available to all.
Below, the message sent in 2009, always taken from the cited paper.

Figure 1: The message Facebook users saw in December 2009

2010, our days

In April 2010 Facebook released Open Graph, a tool for developers that mainly consists of the “Like” button.
In May 2010, the increasing pressure on its privacy policy, coming from both public opinion and politicians, forced Facebook to do something. The notorious network finally reorganized its Privacy Settings page.
Below, the page as it appears today, on July 2010.

Figure 2: Facebook's simplified privacy settings, July 2010

What follows in the next articles

We’ll write again about Facebook and Privacy in the next articles.
Subscribe to our feed or return to visit our blog to follow the argument.

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