Facebook does it again…

When will Facebook ever learn…?! (and when will I learn!)

I have a Facebook account to keep in touch with old friends, and to showcase the photos I take at parties and events. I have over 500 people on my profile which probably less than 100 are my friends, the rest are people I have taken pictures of and are usually friends of friends. I have various settings on the account to prevent access to my wall and other information that I want to share with friends, but have always been liberal with the settings as there isn’t any information there that people can’t find out about me with minimal research. My ‘wall’ has always been a bone of contention though as I say things that are on my mind at a particular time (good or bad), and therefore I have always tried to keep that to friends only.

Some one I love used to be linked on my profile, and over the last few days I have been dismayed at how people will not respect my privacy and keep repeating things to that person. I decided to try and put and end to the “he said, she said” and spent a not insignificant amount of time working on the privacy settings Facebook provides to lock down the profile so that my friends can see it and those mutual friends (which include a couple of people that I have in my “true friends” list) and all others that are ‘just there for the photos’ cannot see anything but the photos and basic information about me.

To do this lockdown procedure I found that Facebook provides a convenient interface under ‘Privacy Settings’ – ‘Customize’ which has 2 variable length fields. The first is who you show your information to, the second is whom you hide it from. The interface describes this as “…. can see this, except these …” where the first is something like “Friends only” or “Friends of Friends” and the second is a name of someone, or a group eg “No Access” or “Photos only” in my case.

Now here comes the punch line. It seems if you add a group, Facebook will completely ignore it for at least the status. I haven’t gone further into testing, as I’m sure others will, but now I know how the information I thought I had diligently protected on my profile was getting out to the masses that I had thought that I had blocked.

If any one wants to test this, it’s simple, create a group “No Access”, add one friend to the group, set all your settings to allow ‘Friends only’ except (ie hide from) ‘No Access’ and add a second friend to the “Hide from” (by name not a group). Go back to the privacy page and click ‘Preview my profile’ you should find only a small amount of information (if any) which will be what ‘complete unknown people’ will see. In the top bar you’ll see “Preview my profile as…” where you can put in the name of someone. First select a friend that is not in the ‘No Access’ group, and view your profile, you should see everything that has been set to “Friends Only” next go back and put in the name of the friend you added to the “No Access” group, and the next page… Horror of horrors will show your status (and maybe other stuff.) Finally put the name of the other person you named to “Hide from” and you will find what you expect, they cannot see the information.

Message to Facebook staff: when will you ever get it right?

UPDATE: It seems that someone over Facebook is on the ball, I posted this message to a couple of forums where I know the staff at Facebook hang out, and it’s fixed already.

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