Changing Your Privacy Settings Won’t Fix Facebook

Jonathan Eyler-Werve

December 29, 2012


I recently ran across a number of status updates decrying the lack of privacy on Facebook, and imploring friends to take action to improve matters. Facebook, in a way we have grown very familiar with, makes this comically difficult:

PLEASE place your mouse over my name above (DO NOT CLICK), a window will appear, now move the mouse on “FRIENDS” (also without clicking), then down to “Settings”, click here and a list will appear. REMOVE the CHECK on “COMMENTS & LIKE” and also “PHOTOS”. By doing this, my activity among my friends and family will no longer become public.


I very much appreciate the interest in having control over the things that you create. I recently worked with the engine room an organization that, among other work, provides advice to online activists in repressive locations. I have followed online privacy (or lack thereof) with some attention.

I am sad to report that no amount of hovering, tweaking, or clicking will change the basic dynamics of Facebook. They control the material you submit, and they display that to sell ads. The more content they sell (ie, you), the more money they make, and they are under intense pressure to make money: their stock is doing terribly. You are not the user. You are the product.

My suggestion for privacy on Facebook is simple: there is none. It is not a feature this service offers. My advice: Set everything to “public” and then decide if you want to keep using it.

However, the more private alternatives are really easy! The first step is collecting email addresses of your friends. Get a list! Update it occasionally. The second is sending email. Email photos, quips, links. We have all the technology. No companies, no settings, no database breaches, just people sharing stuff.

If you want help taking control of your media stream, I am ALWAYS happy to chat about these issues. I’m at :)

— Jonathan Eyler-Werve

— Images by the very talented Justin Kern of the Windy Pixel. CC by/nc/sa.