CAREFUL: Facebook's New Settings Publish Your Interests, Even If They're Private

Mark Zuckerberg

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Facebook is migrating its users into public forums, called “Pages,” based on the “Likes and Interests” and “Work and Education” sections of user profiles.The important thing Facebook users need to know is that even if their profile is private, membership in these “Pages” will be public information.

Click here to see how to prevent publishing sensitive information >

If a user lists “Skiing” as one of their interests on their private profile, at the end of the migration process, this user will either publicly belong to a “Skiing” Page or have chosen not to.

Forgetting this key point could result in some very awkward situations.

Your boss, who was previously barred from viewing your profile, may not be happy to see you’ve joined a group based on your interest in “making fun of my awful boss,” for example. We can also imagine some people may not want to be part of groups that publish their religious or sexual orientation.

The good news is that Facebook isn’t sneaking this change on users. It doesn’t happen automatically. If a user hasn’t made the change yet, there’s a prompt on the profile that reads:

“The things you care about will now link to actual Pages.

We matched your current profile info to related Pages.

View Page suggestions >”

Facebook is also good about warning users that “by linking your profile to Pages, you will be making these connections public.” One thing Facebook could do better is not pre-check every Page during the part where it asks users to “confirm the Pages that will be on your profile.”

Smart: Facebook makes you click to save the changes.

Smarter still: Facebook warns you that you're linking to these pages from your profile.

This embarrasses us, so we're going to click edit to see if we can remove John Tesh from our profile.

Back on the profile, John is gone! We also don't belong to any groups based on interests we don't want EVERYBODY to know about.

So let's review how Facebook handled this migration…

The Good:

  • Facebook isn't sneaking this change on users.
  • Facebook warns users that 'by linking your profile to Pages, you will be making these connections public.'

The Bad:

  • The process takes a while and doesn't feel like it obviously benefits the user.
  • Facebook should not pre-check every Page during the part where it asks users to 'confirm the Pages that will be on your profile.'

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