Facebook’s New Instant Personalization Option

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced at its F8 conference that they released a new feature called “Instant Personalization”. Facebook users are automatically opted in to this new feature. So if the past is an indicator on future actions I am sure we will have a privacy fight arising.

But let’s look at what this exactly is. Facebook is working with select partners to enable a personal and social experience the moment you arrive on their websites. When you’re logged in to Facebook, these sites can personalize your experience using your public Facebook information.  Remember this is your public information.  Information that over 400 millions users already can see.

Not so bad is it, or perhaps it may be.  That will be the next debatable issue.

What public data is shared?

When you and your friends visit an instantly personalized site, the partner can use your public Facebook information, which includes your name, profile picture, gender, and connections. To access any non-public information, the website is required to ask for you or your friend’s explicit permission.

Who are Facebook’s partners right now?

Instant personalization is enabled only for the following partner websites: yelp.com, docs.com, and pandora.com.

Do I have it right now?

Well the simple answer is YES.  Instead of Facebook requiring you to opt in, they automatically enabled this feature.  But the fold at Facebook say the data shared is purely public and the partners at least for now are large and well know vendors.

How can I turn it off?

First you can go to Account -> Privacy Settings -> Applications and Websites -> Instant Personalization -> Edit Setting.  Then uncheck “Allow select partners to instantly personalize their features with my public information when I first arrive on their websites.”
You can also opt-out of instant personalization by clicking “No Thanks” on the Facebook notification on partner sites, partners will delete your data. To prevent your friends from sharing any of your information with an instant personalization partner, block the application: Microsoft Docs.com, Pandora, Yelp.
So where should we be concerned?
Well the first area of concern is the fact you are already opted in.  I think that was a pure business decision on Facebook and one I do not agree with.  It is our information and WE should decide who sees it.

But the second point of concern is that these partners can pull information from your friends.  So if your friend visits a site that you have no affiliation with that friend can pass your public personal information on to that site.  Meaning whatever permission that you had previously extended to your friend to use your public profile details have now been extended to a site with which you have no affiliation, and with whom you have no knowledge.

Let’s sum it up!

Is this huge?  To be honest the privacy advocates say YES. I am not so sure.  I agree anything concerning your private information should be addressed.  But I think the information you entrust is where we need to look.  I do not make much information public on Facebook and I have a Facebook email account (a gmail account I use with Facebook).  You should be much more concerned over what public information you share.

Let’s face it folks, Social Networking is evolving.  Most people do not like change but in order to connect these networks together and really benefit from the experience these things need to happen.  Social Networks will evolve into one inter-tangled web where you can connect with friends on MySpace who are not members of Facebook and pass PUBLIC information onto Pandora to better enhance your listening experience.
The good news is you will always have a way to opt out if you are not ready.  So what is your take?  Are you ready to take the plunge or not?
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