Everywhere you go in the world, you will find that people’s understanding and tolerance of things will vary hugely. It might be social customs such as how much clothing people need wear, whether or not you leave food on a plate, or how you address a member of the opposite sex. The same principle can be applied to what happens online, and what the limits are on a person’s privacy expectations.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that certain countries react with more volatility than others when changes are made to Facebook’s privacy settings. And now, following the release of her book Lean In, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has admitted that there is a significant difference in the levels of acceptance between America and other countries in Europe, she insists that Facebook does care as much about privacy as anyone:
“I believe there is a perception and fear that because we are American, we don’t take privacy as seriously as Europeans do. We feel this most acutely in Germany… If there is a single American who cares as much about privacy — just one — as someone in Germany, then we have to understand it.”
Despite her suggestion that a lot of the fear associated with changes to Facebook’s privacy settings stems from the fact that the technology is still relatively new, it is nice to finally have an acknowledgement from Sandberg that these changes are often too complicated and confusing for the users:
“Our biggest mistake over the years was not one of violating privacy, but was one of complexity. There is this tension in privacy between control and ease of use. You can give people a lot of control and it is very complicated, or you can give people less control and it is easier to use. Facebook has historically given people tons of control, but then it was all on privacy pages with 40 things, and it was hard to understand.”
What are your thoughts on Facebook’s privacy settings? Are they too complicated to allow for meaningful sharing, forcing you into restricting what you share too harshly through fear that something might slip through the net? Or do people need to be more educated in their online sharing habits?