NEWS FROM THE LAB - Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Facebook removes a privacy control, surprised? Posted by Sean @ 15:30 GMT

On March 27th, Joey Tyson, a privacy and security engineer at Facebook, asked:


In general, I think many people tend to trust Google more than Facebook. Any thoughts from my followers on why that might be?

Tyson, a.k.a. Social Hacking, is a privacy advocate, and was long before he began working for Facebook.


He's asking an important question. Why do people trust Google more than Facebook?

Well here's an example of why…

Recently, I tested Graph Search. And at the time, I pointed out the "Clear Searches" option in Facebook's settings, which can be used to purge one's search history. Or at least it could.

Facebook Settings, Clear Searches

Late last week… poof! The option disappeared from Facebook's settings.

Facebook Settings, No Clear Searches

And it's gone. Just like that. Like it never existed.

And what showed up (temporarily) over the weekend?


Facebook Gifts

I've been waiting for something like this to pop up ever since I noticed "Gifts" returned to Facebook's settings:

Facebook Settings, Gifts

Why, if I didn't know any better… I'd suspect Facebook's Graph Search was not designed to help me locate things of interest, but rather, to generate interactions which can be used to profile me. And then that consumer analysis can used to prompt my friends and family to buy me gifts?

Seriously, why should anybody "trust" Facebook?

I didn't sign up to have my searches, and other data, used to recommend things. (That's Amazon's job.)

Both Amazon and Google provide an option to pause/suspend/purge search history.

I expect no less from Facebook.

Whatever else its faults, at least Google never seems to just up and delete a component of its privacy dashboard. And when Google rolls out a new service, it doesn't just come and go seemingly on a whim.

Facebook privacy controls: here today and gone tomorrow. — And that's no way to build trust.


Updated: Facebook — the company whose motto is "Move Fast and Break Things" — blames a bug for the disappearance.