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Live Blogging Facebook's "Simpler Privacy Controls" Press Conference

Facebook is holding a special press conference today, where it will be discussing the new “simplied” privacy settings that the company has developed in hopes of easing recent concerns over privacy. I’ll be live blogging the news.

NOTE: See Drill (Down), Baby, Drill: Facebook’s New “Simple” Privacy Settings Still Pretty Complex, our story after this was published, for a comprehensive look at the privacy setting changes.

The press conference starts at 10:30 Pacific Time. It’s happening at Facebook’s headquarters in Palo Alto. From what the press has been told:

Mark Zuckerberg and other senior executives from Facebook will discuss details regarding enhanced, simpler privacy controls.

Facebook has been under fire from bloggers, analysts and others that changes it made in April after its F8 conference once again seems to push some people into being more open than they may realize. There are also signs that Facebook’s own users have these concerns.

For background, see these past articles from Search Engine Land:

As for today’s news, stay tuned. I’ll be updating with live coverage, once things begin. I don’t know of any public webcast, but I’ve asked about this. If I hear of one, I’ll update with a link.

And we start, Elliott Schrage of Facebook PR welcoming, saying here to address some concerns and the principle of controlling the information you share.

Mark Zuckerberg comes up. Thanks all for coming out on short notice. Been pretty intense few weeks. We really wanted to take the time to make sure we understood the feedback, then build something and releasing.

Teams have been cranking on what’s being shown today, pretty big overhaul and pretty pleased with it.

Kernal of what Facebook is that people want to stay connected. That’s a core human thing. Not just college students. Since beginning, service has tried to make that possible. Best done if people have control over what they share, with a good simple system that they can use.

So we believe tha poeple come into this wanting to stay connected with friends and not just friends but people in their community.

When people are able to share more, it makes the world more open and connected, you have more empathy about people around you. [mark talks really fast FYI, hard to keep up]

Service, Facebook of today, far different than what launched in 2004. only a few features and few people. Now many features many people. Huge challenge in how to build privacy features. We’ve really tried hard to continually upgrade the system. Important that many of thing on site weren’t taken into account with old privacy model

For exmaple, news feed. Now much more gets shared through it, so introduced per post controls. Something that made no sense compared to when site first began.

Another issue are platform application. Vast majority of people on site play games. Original privacy model was application got basic info but if it wanted more, it had to prompt you to get all your info and all your friends info. Reasonable at first, but found many apps didn’t need all that, just your name, friend list, but not say your friends photos. So old model was simple but not granular enough.

So changed to system announced at F8, granular data permissions for applications. Anything not open to everyone, it has to ask you for specific permission.

So changed to system announced at F8, granular data permissions for applications. Anything not open to everyone, it has to ask you for specific permission.

Also easy to underestimate the network model, especially in the US he says. Eventually expanded from college networks to regional networks, like around cities. But outside the US, the “regional” network for India was the entire country of India — so that was way to expansive, they figured.

But how did this evolved? People want to share to others on a day to day basis, those around them. But then also controls for people you want to find, discover to connect with. Your friends who really should be your friends on Facebook.

So three levels. Friends, college networks and everyone. These were the basic sharing models that Facebook started with.

Quickly had to evolve to different model. Added companies, and that was OK a bit, but in the end the only model that made sense was the location you were in. But that then was too hard to adminster worldwide.

[at this point, getting today’s theme now. hey, if we’ve screwed up with privacy, it caught us offguard as things kept changing on us so rapidly].

Thought about what new model might be, which turned into friends, friends of friends and everyone. These three things operate today and replace where Facebook came from, including the regional networks.

Facebook found those in regional networks were really engaged, which surprised them. So they went through transition in December where recommended settings that they thought would be similar [i guess] to what they did as part of regional activity. Stresses they didn’t change any settings.

Now talking about two other new things, Pages and Interests. How got there? People had interests they put in profiles. More people connected with pages on the site. 20% of users had listed interests, and more than 70% of users connected to Pages. Pages more popular and more “robust” model. You can interact with people and other pluses. So did the migration to that.

So from the feedback they’ve read, they realize much of what they were trying to do didn’t get communicated well. Realize big take away, “we really need to simplify the controls.”

Now for the changes. “The nubmer one thing that we’ve heard … the settings have gotten complex, and it has gotten hard for people to use them and effectively control their information.”

Granular controls remain, as many people do like them. But if it gets to point where too hard and too many controls, you may feel like you have no control. Feedback resonated, and that’s why we kind of “holed up” a few weeks ago.


  1. One simple control
  2. Applies to all content retroactively
  3. Applis to new products going forward

So when release new settings, those will inherit. If you want to share friend to friends, it will share that way.

Showing slide (I’ll add images later). Choose Your Privacy Settings, shows key areas  like My Status, Photos and Posts and Family and Relationships and where you share these things to — Everyone, Friends of Friends and Friends only.

There’s customize link, if you want to pick and choose particular things.

Facebook Privacy Controls

Second, Basic Directory Information

  1. Less publicly available information
  2. Real privacy controls (no connections)
  3. Necessary for friends to find you

That’s from the slide, those numbers. People want to control friends and connections, so simplifying the nuances around the sharing. Still not getting example what this means. You’ll have complete control over who sees what’s on your page. Before, if you interacted on the page, then some people might see it. For example, you can Like a page now without telling the world, as was the case in the recnet past.

Showing the Basic Directory Information control panel. Now shows things like who can send you messages, find you in search. Some thing like your name remain always public.


  1. Full opt out for platform
  2. Easy opt out for instant personalization
  3. Granular permissions model

Wow. This means you can get out of applications that interact with Facebook on and off the site.

Another screen (promise, I’ll add these later plus we’ll have a comprehensive story on the changes) listing your application controls.

Last thing, talking about sharing. Want to make sure they communication information clearly. Also revamped the privacy guide to help people. Also will add in message at top of home page to new “Controlling How You Share” page. You can see the guide here:


Only ever done a few home page announcements like this in history of company, so stresses this is really important.

Also, here’s Facebook blog post with more info and some screenshots.

And now takes questions.

More people have posted concerns that Facebook might charge for using the site than privacy. He’s not downplaying privacy but also says about the deactivate Facebook account movement, “We’ve seen no meaningful change in the stats on that.”

they have a “netpromoter” score than can dip or rise, went down after F8, they thought it was privacy issues but turned out to be [i think] instead how games were flowing into newsfeed.

If we hadn’t buildt newsfeed or built platform or gone through those disruptions, we wouldn’t have the things people depend on today.

How as government concern influence today’s change?

Zuckerberg says main thing they listened to was their users feedback. Congressional reps just represent people. Well, Mark says, it was easy for them to see directly what people wanted.

But yes, spoke to politicians, but the biggest constituent they serve are those who use their service.

Our main goal was being response to what people were saying. to build a great organization, serve users first, not advertisers.

Misconception that if people share more info, Facebook can use it for ad targeting. But principles of the system are that Facebook doesn’t give info the advertiser. Instead, Facebook serves the ads themselves [um, OK, that’s effectively sharing with advertisers to some degree — no, you don’t hand individual info over, but the more individuals share, the more the hell you sure can target those individuals on behalf of advertisers better].

Says pushing for open and data portability, they’re actually helping others compete with them [true, opening up Facebook’s social graph more last week allows someone like Google to do more with it].

Why not go all default to private, as some in Europe may want?

Always been important for the site to have some type of sharing, that there’s always been friends, something in the middle and everyone. That’s what we’re doing, we think it’s important to help people share simply by default and think they can also choose.

— lost power, no outlets here and ran down first battery, swapped batteries, question on sharing with law enforcement esp with some australian criticism. part of answer was sometimes their users don’t want that info shared to them —

Not first time users criticized Facebook? How not let this happen again?

Mark, it gets back to principles that users need control. We did this wave of changes to modernize privacy. There were a lot of different changes … maybe we should have gone a bit slower, communicate clearer … not sure how could have done it but have learned privacy is one of the most sensistive things [may have said is he most sensitive thing].

Now we feel like we hve the privacy model that will help us scale the service to millions of people…. this is the end of the overhaul we’re doing. “one of the big takeaway is don’t mess with the privacy stuff for a long time”
Good fun now as we hear a reporter’s editor on the audio question line telling the editor how to look up something on privacy from EPIC rather than asking a qustion. And we move on from that.

Are things not clear, people posting stuff they think is private but it’s not really, as things like Youropenbook.org seems to show (see link way above).

Mark, the first time you post something, a box pops up saying you’ll share this post with everyone on the internet. That’s one piece of data on this [and true, Facebook does this very well for new users]. Plus, user do change their settings. While most poeple are comfortable wit most of the defaults, most people also do change a few things… so things they have it right.

Revenue, how important was that to these changes?

Wasn’t even raised as part of this. Says he knows it may sound crazy that they’re so focused on users this way. [well no, not at all — I mean google’s said the same thing for over 10 years. and Ben & Jerry’s …]

Mentioning David Kirkpatrick’s book, how it documents on how he didn’t want to sell the company at 22, because when you’re that young, “you’re not making decisions to maximize the amount of money” you can make. Decision was this was what they care about, one of the most transformative things in the world, to make the world more open and connected … i always read these article taht you must be doing this because it’s going to make you more money … for people inside the business [facebook] that couldn’t be less true … “it factors in not at all” … such a big disconnect btween how peopel see them externatll and how they seem themselves internally.

how do you deal going beyond 500 million people?

We’re really going to try and not have another backlash. Not talking about location (IE checkins like Foursquare] because that’s not ready yet to even discuss, but your settings will carry over .. and we’ll think long and hard about what setting would be most appropriate [wait, why think long and hard if you’re going to respect defaults?]

And our own Greg Sterling gets the last question. Did you see any drop in engagement versus actually leaving.

No, there’s no statistically meaningful changes.

So why did you make the changes?

We listened to the feedback we got, and we thought it was right. I think a lot of the steps we’ve taken make sense. Per post settings. Dropping regional networks. “Facebook is not a solved problem. There’s so much more we need to do … there’s so much more left to do … we’re open to all the feedback we can get on that … in this case, we thought it was really good feedback.”

And that’s it for the press conference. We’re going to have a more coherent overview coming of the new privacy settings, so stay tuned.

See related news on Techmeme.

Postscript: See Drill (Down), Baby, Drill: Facebook’s New “Simple” Privacy Settings Still Pretty Complex for a comprehensive look at the privacy setting changes.

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