By Ed Oswald | Tuesday, August 18, 2009 at 2:15 pm
With the mass migration from MySpace to Facebook by a good portion of the social mediarati, the ways we are using the service is certainly changing. Before, the two sites had rather distinct user types. This lead to the sites being used in different ways.
MySpace always seemed to be more casual, and personal use ruled. The atmosphere was less formal, which meant functionality such as personal information really was not necessary. The people you were adding weren’t always necessarily your true “friends.”
Facebook was different. It’s roots as a connection between college students, and later on businesspeople, made it much more formal. Typically, if you were adding somebody on Facebook, you either knew them, were friends with them, or worked with them.
Thus, Facebook by design allowed you to enter personal data such as contact information. A good portion of us, myself included, likely put this information here because we wanted those on our Facebook to have that information if they needed it.
I have tons of people on there that I completely lost contact with and have reconnected as a result of the service, which I am pretty grateful for.
But things are changing. With MySpace out of vogue, that crowd is coming to Facebook. This means that the less formal use of MySpace, including adding people you might not necessarily directly know, is much more commonplace.
There’s just one problem. The way Facebook stores your personal data has not changed. I found this out the hard way, and didn’t realize it until my contact information was used in a stalking incident by a person I had added who I really did not know.
Laying out in the open as long as they were on my friends list was just about every bit of personal information about me, including address, phone number, email, and IM contact information. I was shocked that I had forgotten this data was there, because typically I am very good with maintaining control over personal information.
Facebook doesn’t make it easy to block the information, either. It’s privacy settings left little to be desired.
Essentially, I would have had to go through every single friend, adding them one at a time, to show my information to select people. This led me to think, how many other Facebookers may be inadvertently sharing information they may not be comfortable giving out?
Take this as a cautionary tale. Double check your Facebook to make sure you’re comfortable with the information you’re giving out: otherwise, you might find out the hard way.
Should Facebook do something? Probably yes. The methods to select who sees your data is a bit too cumbersome. Rather than making it a manual process, it might be better for the company to allow you to group friends, and from there allow/deny access to personal info.
I’m curious as to whether or not the ways you use Facebook have changed in this “post-MySpace era.” Have you checked to see how your data is being shared?