Facebook's Privacy Checkup: Genuine, or Facade?

Brandon Dimmel's picture

Facebook's Privacy Checkup is finally being rolled out in an effort to help users understand and control their privacy settings. It's a step-by-step process - interestingly, led by a nameless blue dinosaur - that shows users who can see their data and how they can customize their privacy settings to their liking. While some critics view the new Privacy Checkup system as a step in the right direction, others suggest that its impact will directly affect Facebook's bottom line.

Privacy Checkup Guides Users Step-by-Step

The program was first announced back in the spring of 2014. It's a three-step process that guides users on how to control their profile information, Facebook posts, and access to their profile information used by other apps. It's an attempt to show users how privacy settings work, giving them the power to limit who can see their posts, conversations, and photographs.

"We're starting to roll out Privacy Checkup, which helps you review and control who you're sharing with," the company said in a Thursday blog post. "We know you come to Facebook to connect with friends, not with us. But we also know how important it is to be in control of what you share and who you share with." (Source: yahoo.com)

One step shows users the apps they've used to log into Facebook; users can then choose to delete the apps they no longer use on a regular basis. Another step carefully breaks down users' privacy settings and provides a list of information intended to help users understand how they can make adjustments to those settings in the future.

Facebook Hopes to Clean Up Public Image

Experts believe the move is designed to help Facebook improve its public image, which has been tarnished by a few prominent scandals in recent months. Arguably, the ugliest episode involved Facebook employing user data to carry out a psychological experiment which secretly manipulated users' news feeds. More recently, Facebook denied claims that it was using its Messaging app to spy on smartphone users.

Some critics seem generally impressed that Facebook is making some effort to help users understand their privacy settings and who can view their most sensitive data. Forbes staff writer Kashmir Hill says it's time other tech titans, such as Microsoft, Apple, and Google followed suit.

"Other tech companies should be doing check-ups with us, re-informing us about our privacy settings and asking us if we're comfortable with how our data is being collected, stored and shared ... essentially asking, 'Are you sure this is what you want to be happening?'" Hill says. (Source: forbes.com)

New Privacy System Likely Has Underlying Motives

But, is there an alternative motive to Facebook's new privacy system? The Wall Street Journal suggests a very interesting point.

"Facebook ... [has frequently been] criticized by privacy advocates for confusing and shifting privacy settings ... [they have] invested significant resources in making the settings more user-friendly. By doing so, Facebook can't lose. As long as users post and share, Facebook gathers more [user] data it can use to sell targeted advertisements based on users' interests." (Source: wsj.com)

What's Your Opinion?

What do you think of Facebook's Privacy Checkup System? Do you believe it's a genuine attempt from Facebook to help its users deal with their privacy settings? Or, do you believe the new Privacy Checkup is merely a smokescreen designed to re-engage existing users in hopes of augmenting Facebook's bottom line? Lastly, how do you think Facebook's approach to privacy compares to the way Microsoft, Google, or Apple handle this issue?

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Dennis Faas's picture

Sure - they'll help protect your privacy, then they'll turn around and sell the tracking data they collected about you (while you visit Facebook) to third-party advertisers. It's win-win!

djs003's picture

Facebook is the most worrisome application I use. I do not trust them at all. Very careful what I post. It seems they tighten security, then put holes in it, only to claim tightening it yet again, then repeat, and repeat.

bigjohnt's picture

I will believe this after it is out for a few months. Facebook is too sleazy to gain my trust.

doulosg's picture

I have trained myself to avoid looking at the ads along the right margin of the Facebook page. But I get a hefty amount of advertising right down the center of the News Feed from the friends who take all the idiotic quizzes and share the "you've never seen anything like this (but we won't tell you what it is)" videos. It's no wonder Buzz Feed pays Facebook gigabucks. Zuckerberg is just taking advantage of our boredom.