Zuckerberg on Latest Privacy Issues: No Big Traffic Changes, Internal Surprise, Future of Instant Personalization

Yesterday, Facebook announced and started rolling out simpler user privacy controls. Afterward, I sat down with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to get more of his thoughts on Facebook’s approach to this round of privacy changes. Several of Mark’s comments shed interesting light on the ways Facebook approached the privacy issues it has been facing in recent weeks. My notes are below.

Among the changes, as we covered in detail yesterday:

  • An overall simpler interface for users to control access to content they share (Facebook had been criticized for making privacy too complex for users to manage), including the notion of “presetting” user choices on future products to the settings chosen on the new “master” control.
  • A new privacy control for users to make their Pages private, if desired (before yesterday, Facebook had always required Pages to be public).
  • New settings to remove authorization for many or all Facebook Platform applications and websites (Facebook has allowed users to remove applications since the Platform launched; this is simply a way to do it in bulk).

Among the things that Facebook did not change yesterday, that some critics had requested:

  • The requirement that name, profile picture, gender and networks are always open to everyone (Facebook says this information is “essential to helping people find and connect with you on Facebook”)
  • The basic “opt-out” nature of the Instant Personalization service (more on that below)

JS: Did you see any measurable changes in user behavior data over recent weeks due to privacy concerns?

MZ: No, we saw no statistically significant or meaningful changes in growth, sharing, or deactivation. This gets to the overall issue of trust. People trust Facebook to give them a good service. Stuff has kept on growing. Sharing is actually growing at the same rate as it was before.

JS: What aspect of the most recent privacy concerns surprised you most?

MZ: Whenever we make changes, we’ve learned that we’re going to get feedback, but I didn’t expect that the feedback would be this. If you asked me what I thought would be most likely thing that people would want to change, no one at the company thought it would have been simpler privacy controls. I actually don’t remember any conversations we had internally about this before [the changes and new features launched a few weeks ago].

JS: What portion of the feedback you heard pertained to the Platform specifically?

MZ: Not as much feedback has been focused on the Platform as simpler controls overall. However, certain things have resonated as the right thing to do, like the video the EFF created showing the steps you have to go through to turn off Instant Personalization.

JS: What do you think will be the biggest determinant of success for the Instant Personalization product/service?

MZ: Basically, if it’s a good product. Classifying everything as “opt in” or “opt out” is one way to look at it. You need to find the right balance with every product. For example, when we launched our messages feature a while ago, if it had been opt in, it would have meant I couldn’t send you messages until you said I could, which makes no sense. Instant Personalization partners can only see the information you’ve set to “Everyone” anyway – it’s not different than anything else [in terms of the rules it follows].

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