Facebook privacy: Zuckerberg's profile unzipped

Facebook CEO's Facebook page reveals the ups and downs of the social networking site's new privacy settings.

How much personal information can you glean from Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg's profile? That depends on when you happened to be viewing it.

As Facebook messes with its privacy settings, the visibility -- or lack thereof -- of Zuckerberg's profile underscores how the new system, however simplified, can be confusing, and may reveal more information to the World Wide Web than users had planned.

Let's take a look at how the privacy of Zuckerberg's Facebook page has fluctuated recently:

According to the site True/Slant, as of October 2, Zuckerberg's public profile contained a photo, a friends list, his networks and the ability to send him a message. You could not add him as a friend, but here's the kicker: Anyone could see his friends list, and try to befriend those people. This becomes important later.

When Facebook rolled out its new privacy settings last week, encouraging users to reveal more of their profile to others, Zuckerberg appeared to follow suit, with True/Slant noting that his profile went public. It's not clear whether the profile was open to anyone, or just friends of friends, but either way, his upcoming events, wall posts and, most importantly, photos, were made visible to lots of people. Gawker's Valleywag blog posted highlights of the photos.

In a wall post, Zuckerberg said he meant to share all those photos, but it's now harder to access them than ever; Facebook now allows users to hide their friends lists from public view, a feature that Zuckerberg has implemented.

Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt told True/Slant that Zuckerberg's process is to be expected. "He went through the transition tool like other users, evaluated the recommendations, and ended up accepting them," Schnitt said.

Well, not really. Zuckerberg's recent Facebook changes reveal a paradox about the new privacy settings: You can make your profile appear private to outsiders, but it's quite easy for prying eyes to find what they're after. In addition to posting Zuckerberg's photos, Valleywag has also managed to stalk celebrities and intrude on Yale's Skull and Bones secret society.

The extra scrutiny Zuckerberg faces as Facebook's chief executive certainly made his profile more susceptible to snooping, but it also allows him to fully understand the changes and act accordingly. As other people use Facebook's privacy transition tool, not everyone will have that luxury.

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Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
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