Thousands Quit Facebook, MySpace Simplifies Privacy
Thanks to another revision of their privacy policy, Facebook has been in the headlines this week for all the wrong reasons. Whether or not the thousands leaving the platform will increase to a significant number on the 31st of this month (a.k.a Quit Facebook Day) remains to be seen, but MySpace is taking advantage of this tiny window of oppotunity regardless. In a move that aims to attract Facebook's sloppy seconds, the ex-king of social networking has announced the simplification of their own policy.  

Privacy Demystified

MySpace co-president Mike Jones reached out to the platform's loyal users via e-mail on Monday.

"The last few weeks have been fraught with discussion around user privacy on social networks," he wrote. "While MySpace at its core is about discovery, self expression and sharing, we understand people might want the option of limiting the sharing of their information to a select group of friends."

As a result, MySpace is planning the launch of simplified privacy settings for user profiles. No official release date has been set, but according to Jones's letter, this is what MySpace users can expect:

  • Profiles can be set to 'public' or 'friends only'.
  • A 'public to anyone 18 or over' setting will be included.
  • By default, MySpace will set profiles to 'friends only' for any user who previously had any granular page setting set to private. This is the exact opposite of Facebook, which tends to make sensitive information public anytime their privacy policy is revised.

"While we've had these plans in the works for some time, given the recent outcry over privacy concerns in the media, we felt it was important to unveil those plans to our users now," continued Jones.

Do You Feel Violated?

You've got to admit that it's a valiant effort on MySpace's part. The social network, which was once at the top of the pyramid, today has nowhere near the number of users that Facebook does. Privacy woes may direct more traffic towards our forgotten hero, but whether or not it will it be enough to make a blip on the radar depends on how serious things get over the next few weeks. 

When it comes down to it, we think it's safe to say that Facebook's changes are offensive, not dangerous. The most often heard argument against the platform is that its curent stance on privacy is 180 degrees different from what it was when it started out. In the beginning, Facebook was a closed system, but with the rise of Web Engagement and all things social, we presume team Zuckerberg decided to try and cash in all the info they've acquired.

Learning Opportunities

For some that's totally cool. Personally, I switched over to Facebook because I didn't like seeing everyone else's self expression (different profile layouts, gadgets, music choices) blasted on their MySpace page. All I wanted to see was my own. Facebook's changes enhance this preference significantly by sharing the information I make available with partner sites like YouTube.

For others, that isn't cool at all.

What's the Big Deal?

The reason behind the recent backlash isn't that most everyone has information to hide; it's simply the fact that pricipals are being tampered with.

"People still care about privacy because they care about control," explained social media expert Danah Boyd. "Sure, many teens repeatedly tell me 'public by default, private when necessary' but this doesn't suggest that privacy is declining; it suggests that publicity has value and, more importantly, that folks are very conscious about when something is private and want it to remain so. When the default is private, you have to think about making something public. When the default is public, you become very aware of privacy. And thus, I would suspect, people are more conscious of privacy now than ever."

Meanwhile, Facebook isn't stepping down. "None of our recent product announcements removed or reduced people's control over their information and several offered even greater controls," argued Facebook spolesperson, Andrew Noyes. “We appreciate the concerns that have been raised about user control of these new capabilities and have committed to responding to those concerns. If there are things we can do better, we will."