"Connections." It's an innocent-sounding word. But it's at the heart of some of the worst of Facebook's recent changes.
Facebook first announced Connections a few weeks ago, and EFF quickly wrote at length about the problems they created. Basically, Facebook has transformed substantial personal information — including your hometown, education, work history, interests, and activities — into "Connections." This allows far more people than ever before to see this information, regardless of whether you want them to.
Since then, our email inbox has been flooded with confused questions and reports about these changes. We've learned lots more about everyone's concerns and experiences. Drawing from this, here are six things you need to know about Connections:
Facebook will not let you share any of this information without using Connections. You cannot opt-out of Connections. If you refuse to play ball, Facebook will remove all unlinked information from your profile.
Facebook will not respect your old privacy settings in this transition. For example, if you had previously sought to share your Interests with "Only Friends," Facebook will now ignore this and share your Connections with "Everyone."
Facebook has removed your ability to restrict its use of this information. The new privacy controls only affect your information's "Visibility," not whether it is "publicly available."
Explaining what "publicly available" means, Facebook writes:
"Such information may, for example, be accessed by everyone on the Internet (including people not logged into Facebook), be indexed by third party search engines, and be imported, exported, distributed, and redistributed by us and others without privacy limitations."
Facebook will continue to store and use your Connections even after you delete them. Just because you can't see them doesn't mean they're not there. Even after you "delete" profile information, Facebook will remember it. We've also received reports that Facebook continues to use deleted profile information to help people find you through Facebook's search engine.
Facebook sometimes creates a Connection when you "Like" something. That "Like" button you see all over Facebook, and now all over the web? It too can sometimes add a Connection to your profile, without you even knowing it.
Your posts may show up on a Connection page even if you do not opt in to the Connection. If you use the name of a Connection in a post on your wall, it may show up on the Connection page, without you even knowing it. (For example, if you use the word "FBI" in a post).
You can send Facebook your comments on the new Connections here.
Updated, May 5: We changed Item #6 to clarify how Facebook uses your post.