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Facebook reveals ‘simplified’ user controls

by Scott Bicheno on 27 May 2010, 11:58

Tags: Facebook

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We've reached a critical juncture in the brief history of social networking service Facebook. As we've said many times before: once a company reaches a certain size and influence, a different set of rules apply. That applies, not just to regulatory authorities, but to its customers and partners.

Facebook wants to be much more than just a social homepage for everyone in the world; it wants to be the social foundation for every website too. In between writing stories today, we clicked on (now owned by US sports broadcasting giant ESPN) to see how England were getting on at the start of their test match with Bangladesh.

On the cricinfo home page, there is a button pushing you to connect it with your facebook account in about as prominent a position as possible. Clicking on it suddenly seems to oblige you to share your Facebook friends with cricinfo and to allow it to automatically post content onto your Facebook page.

Our initial feeling was panic; that we were on the verge of handing over a bunch of control without fully understanding what the implications were. So we declined. Then, clicking through to the live scorecard for the match, the right hand side of the screen is over-run with Facebookery, including a live chat stream.

We mention this as just one example of the growing ubiquity of Facebook and how we are being constantly urged to share our every online action with Facebook and, in turn, the rest of the world. While Facebook as just a page onto which you could spew stream-of-consciousness dribble to share with your friends if you so chose, it seemed innocuous. The direction it's evolving in, however, is ominous, bordering on Orwellian.

So, having commented on the hysteria of some responses to Facebook's opaque approach to privacy and end-user control, we must stress that we in no way underestimate the gravity of the situation. Nor, it seems, does Facebook, which has finally announced what it's calling simpler end-user controls.