Joe Nocera for The New York Times: Facebook’s New Rules

October 18th, 2013

The New York Times
by Joe Nocera
October 18, 2013

No sooner had the ink dried on my last column — about the new Dave Eggers’s novel “The Circle,” in which he imagines a world without privacy — than Facebook announced two changes to its privacy settings. In its short nine-year existence, Facebook has made many changes to its privacy policies, of course. More often than not, the changes have enabled the company to monetize the rich trove of data it collects from its users. When you get right down to it, that’s really all it has to sell.

As these things go, these particular changes were less than earth-shattering: the first would make everyone’s news feed searchable; the second would allow teenagers to share their latest thoughts or videos not just with their “friends,” or their “friends of friends,” but with anyone who uses Facebook. Previously, under-18 users of Facebook were restricted to sending posts to “friends of friends” — a category that, admittedly, can run into the thousands for many teenagers.

Still, it felt as though Facebook was making at least some small effort to establish boundaries beyond which teens couldn’t go: a zone of safety to protect them from predators and bullies. Now, it seemed, all bets were off. (In fairness, I should note that the default setting for teenagers is “friends,” which is restrictive, and that users under 18 have to change their setting to be able to share information publicly.)

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