'Ask' Feature Dialed Back By Facebook After Privacy Concerns Arise
May 23, 2014

‘Ask’ Feature Dialed Back By Facebook After Privacy Concerns Arise

Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Facebook started off the week with the introduction of a new "Ask" feature, but the social network apparently didn't realize that it might have been asking for trouble. The new feature was added to its "Relationship Status" and this was designed so that users could ask others on the social media site about undisclosed status, work affiliations, hometowns and anything else that might have been left blank in their "About" section.

While it might be an all too common problem that some Facebook users share "too much information," in this case it could be that the social network was encouraging some to Ask too much.

"There was a time -- one I can hardly remember -- when we kept our 'hands' to ourselves. Just like we kept our personal information and our most intimate thoughts stored away," Jen Glantz, author of "All My Friends are Engaged," in her Huffington Post Blog this week. "Back in the good ol' days, if Johnny wanted to know if Suzie was single or not, he had to swing the dials on his phone and ask her. But now, a friend you haven't spoken to since sophomore year of high school or someone you met once, three years ago, at a party in the West Village, can click a button and send you a notification asking what your 'deal' is."

Glantz might not have been the only one to see a problem.

On Thursday the company dialed it back a bit with what it has called an "expanded privacy checkup tool," which is aimed to remind users about their respective current privacy settings and allow them to review who they're posting to, which apps they might use and even the privacy levels of key pieces of information on their profile.

"On Facebook you can share whatever you want with whomever you want, from a one-to-one conversation, to friends or to everyone," the company said in an official statement. "While some people want to post to everyone, others have told us that they are more comfortable sharing with a smaller group, like just their friends. We recognize that it is much worse for someone to accidentally share with everyone when they actually meant to share just with friends, compared with the reverse. So, going forward, when new people join Facebook, the default audience of their first post will be set to Friends. Previously, for most people, it was set to Public."

CEO Mark Zuckerberg also said that the company will continue to help guard users' privacy, which he said was part of the social network's commitment to "loving the people we serve."

His comments, which were made to Facebook shareholders during the Menlo Park, California, company's annual meeting, as reported by the Washington Post, were in part aimed at addressing concerns that Facebook shares personal information more widely to help sell ads based on those users' interests.

"We think this is taking our responsibility seriously to make sure people have control over who they are sharing with," Zuckerberg added. "Over time, we think that is going to serve everyone who is using Facebook better and help us achieve our long-term goals."

For those who still have privacy concerns there is a way to dial it back a bit more. Last month, Facebook introduced a new "Anonymous Login" feature.

"Anonymous Login is a brand new way to log into apps without sharing any personal information from Facebook. The new Facebook Login gives people the option to pick and choose what information apps get," Facebook added on its blog post.