Hardly your grandmother’s Facebook New User Object fields

  • Words: Andy Clarke

Yesterday, something I said on Twitter seems to have resonated. “It takes a court order to get your personal data from Twitter, but just anyone can get it from Facebook.”

Facebook has updated its platform “making a user’s address and mobile phone number accessible as part of the User Graph object” to application developers. Although I don’t make Facebook applications or understand why people use Facebook — I don’t — I know this is a big deal.

While on one hand, Facebook admits that, for example, my teenage nieces’ address and mobile numbers are “sensitive information”, what they themselves refer to as a “standard permissions dialog” hardly makes that clear.

Facebook standard permissions dialog (Full size)

A user’s address and mobile number is clearly not standard information and Facebook should make it clearer that a user is about to share more than “basic information” (name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends, and any other information [they] shared with everyone), by improving the design of their standard permissions dialog.

Suggested new design #1 (Full size)

It would be trivial for them to add an important notice to the top of the dialogue box and then emphasise that contact information is being requested in addition to standard information by drawing a user’s attention to it. They should, in my mind, also include a help dialogue that explains the implications of clicking “Allow.”

Suggested new design #2 (Full size)

Many people skim read (at best) or don’t read at all (at worst) messages about changes to terms of service like this. They just click the “I accept” or “Allow” button, trusting that an application or service has their best interests at heart. To make sure its users fully understand the implications of clicking “Allow”, Facebook should disable that button until a user confirms that they have read and understand what all this really means for them, their children and their privacy.

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