Privacy design

Let’s take a look at Facebook’s “How people bring your info into apps they use” feature.

Facebook loves simplicity. This works out well for social interfaces that have a simple backend, but it works out poorly for things that have a complicated backend like Facebook’s privacy settings for apps people use.

When people are wondering where their information will end up, there’s no way to simplify the verbiage you use to explain this to them, while communicating all the answers to their questions. The only information we get in this control panel is, “People on Facebook who can see your info can bring it with them when they use apps.” This leaves a lot of unanswered questions, namely:

  • Will my friend’s apps be able to see this information even if my friend can’t?
  • Once my friend’s app brings over a piece of my information that only he can see, can that app make it public to everyone?

If Facebook is allowing apps to make private information public, this would violate Facebook’s own TOS clause that also prohibits people from taking screenshots of someone’s profile and making it public. This question can easily be cleared up by using more explicit, precise terms. “Bring info into an app” doesn’t say anything about what happens to that info. Does the app store my info that my friend brings to them? Can the app then show that info to other people besides my friend?

This is not the place to be oversimplified and big-picture-oriented; Facebook needs to have text (either in the privacy settings, or in a separate, super-detailed document) to answer all of these questions.