Published December 14, 2009
| NewsCorp Australian Papers
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's 25-year-old co-founder and chief executive, marked the social network's privacy shift by making 290 photos public on his personal profile last week.
The happy snaps included shots of Mr Zuckerberg cuddling a teddy bear in his pyjamas, lounging shirtless by the pool, and playing a mock lightsaber battle in the office with his girlfriend, Priscilla Chan.
But shortly after tech blog Valleywag made a gallery of Mr Zuckerberg's most candid photos, the images were removed from public view on Facebook.
"For those wondering, I set most of my content to be open so people could see it," Mr Zuckerberg wrote on his Wall.
"I set some of my content to be more private, but I didn't see a need to limit visibility of pics with my friends, family or my teddy bear :)"
However, all of the pictures he mentions now have limited visibility. The only information regular users can see is his basic info and Wall.
Mr Zuckerberg's Wall also mentions that he likes waking up to the Rudy theme song, and a few months ago he joined the 20,000-plus members of the group "I automatically hate the new Facebook home page".
Valleywag said the about-face with his photo album was a "dumb move, PR-wise."
"On the one hand, Facebook' (sic) own chief executive is illustrating that his privacy settings are so baffling that even he himself doesn't grasp their full implications," said blogger Ryan Tate.
"And, on the other, we already published the most embarrassing stuff! Sigh."
Facebook spokesperson Barry Schnitt — also shown in the now-private photos — told the True/Slant blog that Mr Zuckerberg changed his photo privacy based on site recommendations.
"He went through the transition tool like other users, evaluated the recommendations, and ended up accepting them," Mr Schnitt said.
Privacy a public issue
Privacy advocates have taken issue with Facebook's requirement that certain personal information, such as a person's gender and the city they reside in, be viewable to everyone, instead of to just Facebook users of their choice.
Facebook's recommendation that users elect to have their messages viewable by everyone — unless they specifically chose to retain their "old settings" — has also been criticized.
"Facebook is nudging the settings toward the 'disclose everything' position. That's not fair from the privacy perspective," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
Mr Rotenberg suggested that his group might file a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission.
"Let me put it this way, right now we're taking a lot of screenshots (of Facebook)."
Mr Schnitt said users could simply opt to leave the city and gender fields blank if they did not want the information seen by their non-friends on Facebook.
He also noted that the new privacy features makes it easy for users to restrict who sees a particular message every time they write a new post, thus making the recommended default setting less relevant.
"Any suggestion that we're trying to trick them into something would work against any goal that we have," Mr Schnitt said.
— with Reuters