Hey, remember how Facebook had to remove the ‘View as Public’ option on profiles last year due to a security flaw which had exposed some 50 million users to potential attack?
You might not recall, it may have been overshadowed by the various other Facebook security concerns over the last year or so, but back in September, a heap of Facebook users were randomly logged out of their accounts as Facebook sought to close a loophole which could be used to steal personal data.
As Facebook explained at the time:
“Our investigation is still in its early stages, but it’s clear that attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that impacted “View As”, a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else. This allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens, which they could then use to take over people’s accounts.”
Well this week, in an update to the original announcement post, Facebook says that its now fixed the problem, and as such, it’s bringing the ‘View As’ option back, while also adding a new option to more easily edit the details you display to non-connections when they look you up on The Social Network.
You can see the ‘Edit Public Details’ option on the first screenshot above – this is a good way to ensure users are in control of the information they share to non-friends, while the re-introduction of the ‘View As’ functionality will also help users ensure that what they show through Facebook is what they’re comfortable with.
Given Facebook’s renewed focus on privacy, the addition makes perfect sense. At its recent F8 developer conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg continued to pitch The Social Network’s ‘The Future is Private’ strategy, with new updates to groups and messaging, aligning with usage trends.
How you view that push will come down to your perspective – in some ways, Facebook’s privacy focus, as noted, aligns with usage trends, while skeptics might also suggest that Facebook is merely trying to sweep some of the more controversial content and discussion on the platform under the privacy carpet by herding users into non-public areas – and away from external scrutiny. Facebook can’t stop such discussion happening on its platform outright, but if fewer people are exposed to it, it reduces the potential impact, and the associated bad press for the company.
But then again, Facebook has made more advanced moves on this front in recent times. It announced new measures to ban extremist discussion and content, even in private groups, while it also recently blocked several controversial commentators due to violations of its policies.
These actions show that Facebook is taking such concerns seriously, and is looking to take action. Again, how you view the same will be relative to your individual perspective, but Facebook is clearly concerned about such issues, and providing capacity for users to control their publicly available information is another related measure on this front.