April 28, 2010 | By Richard Esguerra

A Handy Facebook-to-English Translator

At last week's "f8" Facebook developer conference, Mark Zuckerberg's notable quotable was that Facebook is "building a Web where the default is social." To our ears, that sounds like "a Web where exposure is the norm." To achieve this, Facebook is rolling out technologies that essentially put Facebook features on other sites, while those sites share data back to Facebook.

Despite the voluminous buzz, many commentators have missed the most confusing announcement of all — new Facebook jargon. So, in the interests of helping users understand what's going on, we've put together a rough Facebook-to-English translator. Think of it as a handy phrase-book that could help you navigate through the more common situations you'll find yourself in.

Important to note: Facebook makes frequent changes to its features. We believe this post is to be accurate at the time of publishing, but please understand that Facebook may change some or all of these definitions beyond recognition before long. In addition, be aware that Facebook operates differently in Europe than it does in the USA, because European nations tend to have stronger privacy-protection laws.

Public information
This is the term Facebook uses to describe information that it wants to share with anybody and everybody. Knowing what information Facebook considers "public" at any given moment can be confusing, but it's key to understanding what information Facebook may share with its business partners without seeking further permission.

Any time "public information" is referenced now, Facebook is talking about your: name, profile picture, current city, gender, networks, complete list of your friends, and your complete list of connections (formerly the list of pages that you were a "fan" of, but now including profile information like your hometown, education, work, activities, likes and interests, and, in some cases, your likes and recommendations from non-Facebook pages around the web).

Visibility
Facebook offers a number of controls over what information is "visible" on your profile. This determines what can be seen by someone who visits your profile page, but does not change whether the information is "public information." As Facebook explains, "Keep in mind that Facebook Pages you connect to are public. You can control which friends are able to see connections listed on your profile, but you may still show up on Pages you're connected to." LIkewise, "While you do have the option to hide your Friend List from being visible on your profile, it will be available to applications you use and websites you connect with using Facebook." Because Facebook deems this information "public," it reserves the right to share that information with its business partners and third party websites, regardless of your visibility settings.

Pages
Facebook's "Pages" are distinct from regular Facebook user profiles, and have generally been used to represent non-user entities like companies, non-profits, products, sports teams, musicians, etc. Community Pages are a new type of Page "dedicated to a topic or experience," such as cooking. These will replace interests and activities.

Last December, Facebook made your Page affiliations available to everyone — non-Friends, advertisers, and data miners included — by classifying Pages as publicly available information.

Connections
You create a "Connection" to most of the things that you click a "Like button" for, and Facebook will treat those relationships as public information. If you Like a Page on Facebook, that creates a public connection. If you Like a movie or restaurant on a non-Facebook website (and if that site is using Facebook's OpenGraph system), that creates a public connection to either the applicable Page on Facebook or the affiliated website.

Last week, Facebook announced a plan to transform most of the bits in your profile (including your hometown, education, work, activities, interests, and more) into connections, which are public information. If you refuse to make these items into a Connection, Facebook will remove all unlinked information.

Social plugins
Social plugins allow other websites to incorporate Facebook features and share data with Facebook. Examples of social plugins include "Like buttons" that share information back to your Facebook profile when clicked; an "Activity Feed" that will show content that you've Liked on that site to Facebook friends; and more.

From the Facebook FAQ: "If you click "Like" or make a comment using a social plugin, your activity will be published on Facebook and shown to your Facebook friends who see an Activity Feed or Recommendations plugin on the same site. The things you like will be displayed publicly on your profile."

OpenGraph
OpenGraph is a new Facebook program that grants any website a way to create objects that can become "connections" on Facebook user profiles. At the moment, some sites appear to be using OpenGraph in conjunction with the Facebook "Like button" in order to publish information back to your Facebook profile's list of Pages — information that everyone is able to see.

For example, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) appears to be using OpenGraph in conjunction with the Like button social plugin. When you click to Like a movie on IMDb, that movie gets added to your list of Pages.

Instant Personalization
Instant Personalization is a pilot program that allows a few non-Facebook websites to obtain and make use your public Facebook information as soon as you visit those websites. For example, the music website Pandora receives access the list of music artists that you Liked on Facebook in order to pick songs to play (for users who are logged into Facebook and who have not opted out of instant personalization).

For users that have not opted out, Instant Personalization is instant data leakage. As soon as you visit the sites in the pilot program (Yelp, Pandora, and Microsoft Docs) the sites can access your name, your picture, your gender, your current location, your list of friends, all the Pages you have Liked — everything Facebook classifies as public information. Even if you opt out of Instant Personalization, there's still data leakage if your friends use Instant Personalization websites — their activities can give away information about you, unless you block those applications individually.


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