Facebook Gets It Right (this one time, at least)

Facebook is the site many of us love to hate – at least privacy-wise. The reason is simple – it skirts the many lines that appear when a site is designed to share information with others, exploit large membership numbers for revenue, yet supposedly give users some control over what gets shared.

There are a lot of blog posts that point out Facebook’s many weaknesses on the privacy front, so I wanted to point out a positive. I recently updated my marital status and flagged my wife (who is a member) as my spouse.  It turns out Facebook emailed her and asked her to confirm that she is, indeed, married to me. She’s still thinking about it…

That’s the good news – no one wants to be listed as someone’s spouse if they are not, and I can think of all sorts of creepy ways such a feature could be used without confirmation. Of course, Facebook doesn’t get it exactly right in two ways. First, it posted the news automatically – and before confirmation was received. This could be a possible source of abuse, although I can understand that many people might want their legitimate updates pushed immediately.  Second, and more minor, is that it made it seem like I just got married, leading many to congratulate me (some facetiously, but some seriously). That’s OK here, but I’ve seen others look like they were announcing lost jobs when they rearranged their employment listings on their profile.  Not so great.

I don’t have high hopes for further improvements in privacy, but the confirmation request gives me optimism.  Then again, maybe it’s always been there and I just discovered it.