Tell It To My Facebook

Camera

The answer to the question you’ll have at the end of this is “because of a small number of real friends who think Facebook is the Internet.”

( UPDATE: Oh, this gets even better. See below… )

A little while ago I mentioned that between Facebook’s insistence on playing tetherball with my privacy settings and dumb games (or rather, dumb friends playing dumb games) filling my newsfeed with garbage that Facebook was getting pretty close to completely unusable.

Since then they’ve made more changes to their privacy settings and they’re 100% awesome. Basically they’ve decided to make your public information broadly available to advertisers while at the same time making a bunch of your personal information public. It’s already done, opt-out-only no less, because quietly changing people’s privacy settings without their informed consent is just how Facebook rolls. As far as I can tell you can now no longer “like” things that don’t have a page, which means you can look at a page and get a list of the tens, dozens or hundreds of thousands of people who “like” that. Which is 100% useless to anyone who isn’t going to try to sell stuff in bulk to that entire group, people we colloquially call data-miners and spammers.

That’s right, Facebook has changed their system such that in order to protect some sliver of your privacy, you need to stop liking things. Way to go, Facebook.

I hope you all like being monetized.

So, here’s what I’ve done to hammer my Facebook account down into some shard of tolerability. This is admittedly my personal definition of “usable”, an umbrella under which you’ll find a relatively clean interface with the best signal-to-noise ratio I can find and the best ways I can find to avoid being a soft target for spammers any other person or process that wants to make a buck selling a slice out of my attention span.

So:

  • Under “My Account”, go to “Facebook Ads”, and set both options (the one above the fold and the one hidden below it, those weaselly fucks) to “No One”. Save changes and continue.
  • Also under My Account, go into “notifications” and judiciously pick the ones you’ll actually want, save and continue.
  • Starting with your privacy settings; open them up and set everything to Only Friends. Allow friends to post on your wall, because sure, and save changes and continue. Do the same thing for Contact Information, thought I’ve set “Add me as a friend” and “Send me a message” to anyone.
  • Again in your privacy settings, go to “Applications And Websites”. Set “Activity on Applications and Games Dashboards” to Only Friends, and disable “Instant Personalization”; this is key. Then go into “What your friends can share about you”, and carefully trim out whatever you don’t want; in my case, that’s everything.
  • In your privacy settings again, go to Search. Pick whichever options you’re comfortable with there (I’ve got “Friends Of Friends” and yes, respectively, which seems to have a fairly low noise threshold.
  • Ok, now the two tedious parts. The first is, go into your Privacy settings, and then to “Ignore Application Invites from friends”. Add all your friends to that list.  Tedious, I know, and you may not want this, but I’ve done it as a matter of principle; Facebook applications basically have access to all your personal information, whether or not you want that, whether or not they need it.
  • Follow that up by scrolling through your newsfeed for the first twenty or thirty Facebook game links, clicking the application icon and choosing “block” from the menu on the left side. You’ll need to play whackamole with these as new ones come in, but that is also just how Facebook rolls. You might want to consider blocking quote-friends-unquote who routinely play with those things, possibly without realizing how annoying it is to their quote-friends-unquote.
  • As per the EFF, you should also go to the Microsoft Docs, Yelp and Pandora applications and block them immediately, though this may be overkill if you’ve already prevented your friends from sharing information about you.
  • Log out, log in again.

I reiterate: “liking” things on Facebook now means your account is publicly associated with that thing. So if you tell Facebook you like it you’d better be ready to own it, forever, whatever the consequences; so let me mention again how repugnant it is to arbitrarily change people’s privacy settings, without telling them, so you can split the money with advertisers. Even the lowest pimps, pushers and whores need enough spine to deal with the people they’re screwing face to face.

UPDATE: It turns out this only addresses things Facebook has shared about you on purpose; the stuff they share by accident is even worse. Via The Guardian, “Facebook privacy hole ‘lets you see where strangers plan to go'”.

The discovery was made by Ka-Ping Yee, a software engineer for the charitable arm of Google, who was trying out the search query system known as the “Graph API” released by Facebook last Friday. In some cases – though not all – it will let you see the public events that people have said they will attend, or have attended.

Yee demonstrated the flaw by showing how the API – which plugs directly into Facebook’s databases – can show you a list of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s planned public events. Yee says that he was very disturbed by the discovery – because there seemed to be no way to prevent the events from appearing on the API, which is publicly accessible, except by saying you were “not attending” an event.

Have a comment? The original article is here.

3 Comments

  1. dria
    Posted April 26, 2010 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    While I understand why you didn’t kill your account entirely, I took a different tack and used it as an opportunity to teach people that Facebook isn’t the real internet, and can never be allowed to even make a dent in it (which is what they’re trying to do and it’s really quite reprehensible).

    I was waffling on killing my account until i went through my Friend list and realized that of the 250+, there were only 3 I cared about that i didn’t already interact with elsewhere on the web. I have emailed those three. If they wish to stay in touch beyond Facebook, the ball is in their court. If they don’t — it turns out I can live with that, because sometimes friendships fade. It’s a normal thing.

    Since then, I have killed my account and gone so far as to block all Facebook cookies and everything else I possibly can. The value is so disproportionately low compared to the incredibly high cost that staying just didn’t make any sense at all.

  2. Posted April 26, 2010 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this post, good advice. I’d already made most of those changes, but had missed a few – all sorted, as far as possible under their new regime.

  3. Mike Richters
    Posted April 27, 2010 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I was about to suggest using Facebook Lite (lite.facebook.com) as a way to avoid a lot of crap that you probably don’t want to see in your News Feed (i.e. “Joe Friend just became friends with Bill Stranger”), but it seems they took that down about a week ago. Because I guess they really don’t like it when people get even a little bit of control over what appears in their News Feed (at least I have some control over what information I share…). Anyway, it’s still possible to use http://touch.facebook.com/ from a regular web browser. As a bonus, that interface doesn’t confine the real content to a tiny little column in the middle of the browser window!

    Note: this has nothing to do with privacy, of course.