Six reasons to hate Facebook's new anti-privacy system, "Connections"

Wondering exactly why people are so pissed about Facebook's latest display of contempt for user privacy? The Electronic Frontier Frontier Foundation's Kurt Opsahl has a good, short article explaining just what's going on with the new "Connections" anti-feature:
1. Facebook will not let you share any of this information without using Connections. You cannot opt-out of Connections. If you refuse to play ball, Facebook will remove all unlinked information from your profile.

2. Facebook will not respect your old privacy settings in this transition. For example, if you had previously sought to share your Interests with "Only Friends," Facebook will now ignore this and share your Connections with "Everyone."

3. Facebook has removed your ability to restrict its use of this information. The new privacy controls only affect your information's "Visibility," not whether it is "publicly available."

Explaining what "publicly available" means, Facebook writes: "Such information may, for example, be accessed by everyone on the Internet (including people not logged into Facebook), be indexed by third party search engines, and be imported, exported, distributed, and redistributed by us and others without privacy limitations."

4. Facebook will continue to store and use your Connections even after you delete them. Just because you can't see them doesn't mean they're not there. Even after you "delete" profile information, Facebook will remember it. We've also received reports that Facebook continues to use deleted profile information to help people find you through Facebook's search engine.

5. Facebook sometimes creates a Connection when you "Like" something. That "Like" button you see all over Facebook, and now all over the web? It too can sometimes add a Connection to your profile, without you even knowing it.

6. Facebook sometimes creates a Connection when you post to your wall. If you use the name of a Connection in a post on your wall, it may show up on the Connection Page, without you even knowing it. (For example, if you use the word "FBI" in a post).

I confess that I haven't paid much attention to this. It came up while I was on holidays, and I hate Facebook and never use it (I have a profile, but haven't logged in for years). But holy crap, that is the most reprehensible bit of corporate awfulness I've seen in months.

Six Things You Need to Know About Facebook Connections


  1. While this doesn’t address the vast majority of these issues, I know when it tried to convert me over to the Connection system, I just deleted them all and typed my old profile information in under Bio, which does not link to anything.

  2. This said I think people like you and me that has an account just because at the beginning we may think it could be something interesting are uncommon. Wired “identified” iPhone 4G I-found-it guy thanks to social network searching, people put any kind of private information on this platform and they (FB) can still show up with such “Privacy(???) Policicy” and…who cares? Still dummies upload their children photos or mum’s cakes pictures.
    Try to launch an application or a site with the same privacy policy and any lawyer (even with a copy and paste Degree) would “wowowowow-what-are-you-doing” you.
    But for those who cares this article is interesting.

  3. 8 of the 8 previous articles about FB linked here are anti-FB and pro-privacy, which is expected. A quick search through BB’s previous commentary on FB is generally negative as well.

    And yet, by my count there are 19 links to FB on the front page right now, not to mention links to BB’s FB page and links on every article page to tweet, Reddit vote, Digg up and Buzz each link. They all “invade” my privacy in their own way if I use them, Facebook is just ahead of the curve. With all the social media links all over the place here though, it’s very difficult to take you all seriously.

    It’s like a drunk person tut-tutting you about the dangers of alcohol while they mix you up a giant Long Island iced tea.

  4. It’s like a drunk person tut-tutting you about the dangers of alcohol while they mix you up a giant Long Island iced tea.

    I’m not sure, but I think that you just accused Cory of being my mother.

  5. I’ve removed pretty much all personal information short of my name and simply use it as a BBS/chatroom at this point.

    1. I’ve done the same hadlock, but I don’t know if that’s enough. I’ve liked things before, I’ve made connections with political statements I’d hate for my future employer to have any access to. I know it’s probably a crazy thought, but if interacting with facebook is going to be a “everybody sees everything all the time” kind of place the only solution that’s going to solve anything is deleting the profile. Why did our extended families have to get sucked into this?!?!?!

    2. I’m not sure what usable information FB could get from my friends list, but that, along with my real name, gender and profile pic are the only parts of my profile that are accurate. My current location, political views, religion, home town, and birth date are all bogus. I change them* every few months just to muddy the waters further.

      I guess someone could get a fix on my political leanings based on my ‘favorite quotes’ section, which is the only optional info I entered, but I don’t really care about that.

      *Looks like they no longer allow you to change your birth date. Too bad for those of you who were foolish enough to provide your real DOB when you signed up — it’s a key datum used by identity thieves.

  6. “And yet, by my count there are 19 links to FB on the front page right now, not to mention links to BB’s FB page and links on every article page to tweet, Reddit vote, Digg up and Buzz each link. They all “invade” my privacy in their own way if I use them, Facebook is just ahead of the curve.”

    The difference is they do not invade your privacy at all, since they will only link to you if you go out of your way to do so. Facebook Connect just goes “Hey everything you type that has a page is now going to be publicly available to everyone now, cool?”

    So basically you’re drunk comparison is completely wrong, unless you change that last line to “a giant Long Island Iced Tea that you specifically asked for.”

  7. I delete all connection and what does it do? Leaves them on my profile. I remove all connections again…ditto.

  8. There’s a Firefox plugin called BlockSite. It prevents listed toxic websites to load. Maybe useful to someone.

  9. I’ve created a group called “Anything PRIVATE shall never be made PUBLIC” that is hoping to gain enough traction to eventually lobby for a similarly-worded rule to be added to the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and the Privacy Policy.

    If you’re interested, check it out and join it, if you want, here:

    If a generalized rule like this were to be made “law”, then these sorts of absolutely blatant privacy infractions would not be permitted.

    The initial aim of the group is simply to determine the exact wording of such a rule, then lobby Facebook to add it to the aforementioned documents, then retroactively go back and fix the prior privacy infractions, then finally to serve as a general rule for FB developers when architecting new features.

    Anyway, check out the group, and join and invite your friends if you feel like it.

  10. Re: Boingboing’s FB links.
    It is technically possible (easy even) to link your logged-in FB profile to the pages you read here (or anywhere) that have an FB-like button (or any other image hosted on FB’s servers). You do not have to click the image, it’s enough for your browser to display it.

    You think that information is not going to get stored by Facebook? You must not have been paying attention. FB wants to get to know you. Through that happy “FB share” button, it knows what you read, as long as your browser has access to a logged-in FB account.

    Which is kind of the point, right?

    I’ve created a group called “Anything PRIVATE shall never be made PUBLIC”

    I can’t tell if you’re being serious. You’ve created a group on privacy… on Facebook?

  11. Creating Facebook groups to protest the widespread sharing of personal information will never sway the company. Frankly, nothing short of significant numbers of users leaving will persuade Facebook to make changes.

  12. Did no one else do the instant, super private thing and simply change their name to that of a fictional character from a Borges short story?

  13. What made Facebook great, is that they used to leave the user in control of their privacy settings.

    Facebook is going to lose it’s users when they remove all their control over their profile.

    They should be honest, upfront, and clear about what info they’re sharing, and who they’re sharing it with (public, advertisers, etc)

    Interestingly Mark Zuckerberg only *recently* seems to have opened up his wall + profile to the public. For a long time, his was one of the most locked down ones :)

  14. Whenever I listen to pandora, a window at the bottom of the page pops up telling me that my facebook friends likes a certain artist. It’s even got their little facebook profile picture. So I guess I am now connected to people on pandora because of facebook?

    I’ll keep using facebook though. I’ve always left my settings as public. To me, that’s kind of the nature of the thing.

  15. Facebook is attempting to become what America Online was in the early 1990s. They are trying to build a portal that keeps you informed and entertained with chat, games, and “news” to keep you from wandering off their site and into the great unknown.

  16. A little less privacy won’t do anyone harm, in fact it will do a lot of good.

    People have lived for thousands of years mostly in small communities (villages), everyone knew what you were up to. Big cities changed that, people became anonymous individuals, you could do anything without anyone knowing, crime rates skyrocketed. Finally Facebook reverses this trend now, increasing the amount of social control in our lives. Less privacy is good for us all.

    1. excuse me, but are you serious? A little less privacy is a little less privacy. I should have the right to control access to my information. PERIOD. If you want to expose your info, fine.

  17. People keep talking about this as an “invasion of privacy,” but I don’t get it. You post something online. It gets used by websites. Why isn’t this a no-brainer?

  18. I finally nuked my FB account yesterday. At first I tried the hadlock approach, but even so I was concerned about what interpolations FB might make from my friends list.

    1. I did the same yesterday. I sent my email address to my closest friends and deleted my account. I wonder how much content is actually deleted, however.

      1. For those that do choose to delete, make sure you actually delete and not just deactivate. There is a huge difference. In addition, don’t ever go back. Facebook is like the “Hotel California” (queue Eagles)…”You can check out, but you can never leave”. If you go back, regardless of how or where, your account will be reactivated automatically….and yes, you will be setup with complete sharing of all information you had before (regardless of prior settings).

        I think that after 14 days, it may be safe…I’m not sure on this. I make sure to never visit a FB related page.

  19. I told facebook I didn’t want links to pages for everything I had listed in my profile, so it deleted everything. Now I only like things my friends want me to. Thanks for sending me back to 7th grade, facebook.

  20. Seeing how FB users aren’t purchasing goods/services but are volunteering their info for free, I don’t see a huge problem here.
    BUT…. I do have an idea. Everyone should fake up their info! If enough folks get annoyed enough to change all their info to render it meaningless and unsellable, it may make a difference.

  21. Well the recient changes in Facebook’s privacy terms finally pushed me over the edge. I deleted my Facebook account. No deactivated, deleted. I didn’t use it much anyway I’m too old to “get it” I guess. *sigh*

  22. I finally gave up on FB altogether… I’m off because their policies stink. If you have a problem with them, just leave them. What is the issue? If you don’t have a problem with their policies, stay. Again, what’s the issue?
    They are a business like anyone else. If everyone dumps them because of their policies, they either change their policies or go under. And again… WHAT’S THE ISSUE???
    Everyone acts as if FB is a drug they can’t let go of, something they NEED instead of something they just want. Let it go. It’s just a service, nothing more… and one that really isn’t that important compared to the rest of life’s issues!

  23. @leland #13:

    Here’s why its not an easy no-brainer: If we were talking about an open blog, or making comments on a forum like Digg, Fark or Reddit… then yeah, you’d have to assume your comments/history are there for anyone to read.

    There are a variety of differences with Facebook that make it a unique situation: 1.) They are changing the security/privacy settings without asking anyone. 2.) The changes they are making default to “share everything to everyone” (You are opt’ed in, whether you like it or not) – if they cared at all about end-user choice they’d make the settings default to “Friends only” (by default opted out, giving you the choice to opt-in if you decide to)

    Facebook profiles are a very personal thing that users spend a lot of time building and expressing themselves. The people at Facebook should honor that by emphasizing things like transparency and choice… not by catering to marketing-partnerships and exploiting user profile data.

  24. This is stupid. If you are that concerned about privacy, then what the hell are you doing on a voyeuristic/exhibitionistic site like Facebook in the first place?

    1. I do not have a Facebook account, but I know many people use it simply to connect with friends and loved ones, almost like the idea of an old party line where anyone that picks up can listen, but you know everyone that is able to pick up. The problem is that Facebook is taking this setup and making it so that everyone in the world can pick up and listen.

    2. Well, there is a big difference between sharing information publicly and allowing that information (pictures of my kids, a brownie recipe, a video of my friends recital) to be searched freely on the web and used by third party applications to do whatever they want with. Most people who join and use facebook WANT to share information that is the whole point. But we want to CONTROL who we share it with, again that was the point of FACEBOOK initially. “Connections” does not give you an opt-out, it simply refuses to take “no thankyou” for an answer. So, I can’t list my alma mater without “joining” a school group and allowing that group to view all my information and having it be searchable on the web. Who cares if I have set my privacy controls to say otherwise. So, I just won’t list my alma mater. But it feels like a betrayal of stated values. A sign of things to come. It will only get worse.

    3. I use FB to keep in contact with a fairly small number of friends and family. I don’t use it for narcissism and I certainly don’t use it to share my life with the rest of the world. If FB wants to be that sort of place, fine, but they should allow me to know that before I joined and they should definitely allow me to delete (not just remove from display) anything I put on in the first place.

  25. I’ve just looked at all my privacy settings. They appear to be intact–I can still select “only friends” to view whatever I wish, amongst a gamut of other options. Even opting out of the Quick Personalization Pilot didn’t change the accessibility by my friends, (which I was able to check, using Profile Preview from the perspective of any choice of my friends or no one at all).

    Besides, if this scares you so much, don’t put anything you don’t want people to know on facebook. After all, it’s sort of the point of the site.

  26. Here’s the thing, Facebook can do whatever the heck they want. It’s their company and you don’t have to use their site. People need to quit acting like they own this or “deserve” something. You are not the one that is going to get sued. If you are putting private and personal stuff on a site like this, and are afraid that it will get exposed, you are an idiot to start with. Let me save you the anticipation – your “private and personal” stuff is going to be exposed…Quit bitching…and quit over-sharing!

    1. This is true. I’m guessing you have a credit card. If your credit card company suddenly changed their privacy policy in such a way that all of your purchases were public, giving you no option to opt out and it came out that even if you closed your account it wouldn’t help, wouldn’t you be angry?

      They are a business and they can do what they want, but I believe they will be facing a series of lawsuits over this. By telling users ONE thing to get them to enter information and promising them privacy then changing their policy to do something ELSE with this data, they are being very shady and potentially breaking privacy laws.

    2. Hey Derek, you know what? I do “deserve” something. When I sign up for a site under the explicit guarantee that what I put there will be shown only to my friends, I “deserve” for them not to turn around and make it visible to the whole effing Internet without my permission.

      If you ever find, say, a private e-mail you sent to someone re-broadcast to the rest of the world, I assume you won’t “bitch” about that, since you were using the “public” Internet to send it.

      In the meantime, sorry, but I think I’m going to keep on “bitching” whenever a company I deal with does something underhanded.

  27. Another good reason for me to feel smug about canceling Facebook. Thanks Zuckerberg!

  28. I never used my real name for facebook in the first place. Talking about your political views in the internet and anywhere else is always risky…

    1. HA! They already have it down for “maintenance” I guess that hit them pretty hard!

      1. Indeed. I hope someone grabbed a screenshot of Zuck’s chat while he was laughing his way to the bank.

        To be continued at the next bug, loophole, “outing”, credit card fraud, public humiliation, and/or otherwise unwanted leak of information…

  29. Glad I deleted my account. Amazing how I haven’t lost touch with my friends yet.

  30. The humour here is seeing people shout (type): “Facebook will lose its members when…” whereas we KNOW facebook has reached the point of immunity. They could do anything to their policies and behaviors, but users will not leave their friends behind.

    Let’s not assume that anything less than a concerted effort by a critical mass would even get their attention.

  31. i moved all my interested into my bio, including current job etc, just so that it wasn’t linked any where. i don’t know how long facebook will allow that to happen, but it’s a handy way around this connections bs for now.

  32. The sad thing is that FB is viewed by my generation of free and permalancers as a necessary networking tool. Im badgered, chastened and mocked for not having a profile.

  33. To me, the value proposition that made Facebook worth using was precisely the fact that it solved a key problem of online life: how to share information about yourself semi-publicly while remaining in control of who accesses it. You can sort of do this with email lists or blogs, but Facebook was a particularly well thought-out solution to the problem, which is why it became so popular. If Facebook goes much further down this “everything is public” route, I just don’t understand what it’s unique value will be to users. On the other hand, it may well be worth it to them from a business standpoint to lose a bunch of privacy-minded users, if they can more thoroughly monetize the data of everyone else.

  34. I just deleted my profile details last week, and lo and behold, I hear here that they SAVE THE DATA YOU DELETE???

    Is this true?

    Is there a way to delete your account and, with it, ALL INFO about you, PERMANENTLY? I mean, for good- they can’t restore it or use it to keep spamming me through a 3rd party?

    I used facebook for years, and from the beginning realized the privacy implications. But the whole “old party line” comparison, that’s it. I have no other way of contacting some of my friends except through that site.

    If the site refuses to delete my information permanently, I am thinking LAWSUIT. Class action style. I could use some money right now, and I’d be glad to sue those bastards to get it.

  35. Okay, any social network alternatives with better privacy policies? Twitter is going to be nationally archived, Myspace is dimly viewed. How is Bebo?

  36. Since there is no way to delete information that makes it actually go away, I would advise people to bury their real interests, etc., in so many fake interests that their real ones are no longer a significant percentage of what FB is selling. If deleting an account doesn’t stop them from selling what was in it, burying what is in it in spam seems to be the only option. Sort of a “Purloined Letter” approach.

  37. ANYONE ELSE NOTICE that FB makes it impossible for users to CONTACT them for criticism and help requests. They provide absolutely NO contact info.

    I want to quit FB, but it’s entrenched as the premier networking site.

  38. Oh also, I like how all of my info is deleted because I refuse to use CONNECTIONS, but they’re still able to tailor their advertisements to my now “non-existent” info.

    SOMEONE needs to make a NEW social networking site that’s like what FB was like in its earliest days!!

  39. I just noticed something even more troublesome about the way #6 in the EFF post works.

    If someone makes a wall post that does not mention the FBI at all, but includes something like, say, “I’m getting tired of the privacy issues with FB…I really need to leave this site,” it still gets listed on the Connections page for “FBI”. That’s right: it ignores intervening punctuation, apparently, as long as there are no spaces there too.

    So basically, someone can end up on a connections page without even intentionally referencing the thing the page is about.

    And based on some of the horrible keyword-based ads I’ve seen? Yeah. This is Not Good.

  40. …did you know that Facebook profile fields aren’t mandatory? ‘S true! Hell, you don’t even have to give them your full last name, if you don’t want to. I just spelled out the initial consonant of mine. As for the DOB field, well, you’re the only one who’ll know if you’re off by a day or a month or a year, aren’t you?

    Maybe it’s just because I’m ancient, in Internet Time, (started in ’97-’98 and no NOT on AOL ta), but unless I’m buying something, no one needs my address or even my full, real name.

  41. I was a bit ‘ahead of the curve’ amongst my Gen-X friends when I first joined FB, and now, years later, FB has enabled much easier communication for such things as our upcoming 25th class reunion (!). But, all the likes and interests I had originally posted on my profile, like books and movies, were bizarely and incorrectly re-formulated into these “connections”, so that my statement of “I never met a book I didn’t like, much less love” turned into three separate listings, apparently for books that really exist that are comprised of ‘part’ of the statement I made. I’ve deleted it all, and once again, reset my privacy (what a joke) settings. Also, I’ve gone and untagged pics, even thought they’re innocuous, simply because I don’t want my name to appear on a pic on someone else’s FB page who hasn’t taken the time to alter their own privacy settings. But you know what? As long as FB is a free service, it will continue to cater to advertisers, because that is how they get their money. Period. I pay for another site (to post art), because not only do I not have any advertisements displayed when I log in and use the site, but because I have more posting privileges. This site, however, does not allow anyone to be searched by name, handle, email, etc. At all. Pretty damn nice, if you ask me. Of course, this other site would not be classified as social networking, either.

  42. I work in marketing and we have been pushing social media for years. We used to go on about all of the positives in an effort to get more people on it (so our marketing efforts would work). What we never tell clients is social media is a two way street.

    Now I am seeing the downside. I spend about half an hour every morning and evening managing my image on the internet. All of a sudden I have become a public figure thanks to Facebook. You can’t stop people from tagging you in unflattering photos that are either sent to all of your friends, posted on your feed, or blatantly posted on your wall.

    I feel like I have no control over my personal life anymore. I don’t need people to know what I am doing every five minutes. What’s sad is, if you’re not talking about yourself, someone else is. I am spending too much time monitoring my account to make sure friends aren’t putting up unflattering photos and saying negative things about me on my wall.

    I am also overwhelmed with online garbage and ridiculous invitations, apps, pokes, birthday alarms, etc.

    I can’t take it anymore

  43. Facebook sucks for another reason now too!

    They took away one of the ONLY cool features that there was to customize your own page and make it look different. I am referring to the removal of the FBML & Extended Info Apps that use to work on the SIDE WALL. Now you can ONLY post lame stuff that is ONLY FACEBOOK’S lame apps/boxes like the ‘photos’ ‘video’ ‘events’ that EVERYONE has.
    At least with the FBML you were able to put up cool images and banners on the side wall.
    It took a while to figure out what would work on the side wall and what wouldn’t, and guess what, now all that time was wasted for nothing since it was all taken away.
    Now, facebook absolutely sucks more than it did before…if that is possible.

  44. i simply dont understand why people are hooked on social networking sites 24/7. And i hate the fact that everyone is telling me get an account on this….and that. the thing is im not interested in having to meet old friends or whatever, sharing my details or putting my pictures in such websites. i may be the only one in my university who doesnt have a fb account, but i dont care, cause it doesnt interest and see no point having. the reality this sites are mostly used to get a lot of cheap publicity, people backstabing u, crimes in many ways, politics…just to name a few. just wait social networking sites are gonna ruin everybody’s life one day. =)

  45. Has anyone else noticed that Facebook remembers every profile you visit? For example, it favors the friends’ profiles you have been on for things such as “Photo Memories” or even whose names appear first in the search bar. This is incredibly unpleasant when someone you never talk to (friend with a falling out, former lover, etc) incessantly appears. The REAL problem though, is that you have no control over the feature. The site claims to respect privacy, but problems…

    1. It records all the websites you go to! That’s a bit of a privacy infraction.

    2. Unlike internet browsers, you cannot manage or delete your history.

    3. You have NO control over these features that publish your photos/information without your consent.

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