OK, the new privacy controls are completely borked. There’s been plenty of discussion already around the Net about how this privacy enhancement can actually open up more of your info to the entire Internet, without you even realizing it. But it gets worse. Even one of the things I actually liked about the new system is broken.

The new settings promise to allow you to set each status update to your wall with a personalized setting; allowing some to be seen by all friends, some by only a few people, some by the entire FB community (or maybe whole Internet, I can’t really tell). I use a fairly customized setup, and I’d been waiting for this feature to be enabled (it was demo’d during the summer); I have friends broken into groups…very close, close, acquaintances. I set my default setting to let “very close” and “close” friends see status updates, but not acquaintances. Tried it out with a test via the web page…worked! So far, so good.

Since I like to make things complicated, I do most of my FB status updates via the identi.ca FB sync application. I wondered how that would work, so I tried it out with fingers crossed…worked! Sweet!

Except it doesn’t, completely. As near as I can tell, there’s some weird difference in Facebook between a pure status update and something with a link attached. When identi.ca posts come in with a URL in them, that URL becomes an attached link…and suddenly the post goes from something viewable only by my default group to a post viewable by any friend!

That’s more serious, in my opinion, than it sounds to some people…”why would you be upset about your friends seeing posts, Ken?”. Because a friend is not a friend is not a friend, regardless of what Facebook and LinkedIn and Plaxo and everyone want you to think. Some people I share political links with, for example…some people I don’t. We’re friends, but we don’t see eye to eye on some topics, and it’s not worth risking a friendship, so we avoid it. Which works fine, until a setting that I think will let me be flexible and do exactly this doesn’t. Uncool, Facebook.

And other apps have problems too. The Facebook for Android app seems to do the same thing…whatever process it uses for updates appears to ignore the new default privacy settings, and shows update to all friends (and maybe friends of friends…I wouldn’t know how to tell. It’s not all of FB, at least…I can check that.)

Yes, it’s possible that I’ve missed settings. I’ve spent time tweaking some settings on the identi.ca app for permisisons, didn’t seem to make a difference. But it shouldn’t be this hard. And ultimately, one would think that my EXPLICIT default setting would override pretty much anything an app did. Ha! So much for privacy.

My connection to this SN is tenuous at best…they’d better unravel this mess pretty quick. I’ve got better things to do.

Wow. In a quick 48 hours or so, the Interwebs have dealt a double whammy. First, the closure of the url shortener tr.im has highlighted the danger of the url proxy…without some carefully built safeguards, the loss of a shortening site means the loss of lots and lots of lookups. And with Friendfeed purchased by Facebook out of the blue, I expect an aggressive attempt to merge my two accounts and social networks coming…an attempt that I will absolutely rebuff. If necessary, I’ll remove or freeze my friendfeed account; I simply have very little overlap in the two networks, and I don’t WANT them merged. As I’ve said before, the constant online push to merge every type of friendship, acquaintance, co-worker, and family member into one or two buckets is completely unacceptable to me. When faced with no way to avoid it other than account deletion, I’ll delete the account. (I certainly hope it won’t come to that in this instance, and I expect that we’ll be able to leave legacy FF accounts around for some time. *fingers crossed*)

What have we learned? *sigh* Well…as sources as diverse as Dave Winer and autonomo.us have declared, we need decentralized services that allow personal control over our data. We need the ability to pick up and move our network information, our saved preferences, and our corpus of shared status, comments, and conversations. There may be disagreements on the exact best way to accomplish this (community-owned sites, Free and Open Network Services, or even a plain ol’ market-based service ala Jon Udell’s hosted lifebits concept), but there’s growing agreement that it’s a good idea. It’s our data.

I like the idea of ‘Free Services’ (as is usual with me, that’s free as in speech, not [necessarily] free as in beer). Although I’m not going to limit myself to GNU Affero GPL choices while I’m exploring, but I hope to be able to settle on a open tool in the end. In addition, I dig federation…the ability to avoid a centralized authority, yet allow separate instances of a service (or related services sharing an API) to communicate, authenticate, and pass information back and forth.

For purposes of Friendfeed replacement, I’m currently interested in identi.ca (where I already have an account), as well as laconi.ca (the F/OSS software behind identi.ca, which can be set up and used in a federated microblogging network), Google Friend Connect, Ning, the DiSo Project, and perhaps some WordPress plugins. At a minimum. We’ll see what shakes out once I start playing around.

URL shortening is a little trickier…it’s a dangerous proposition however you do it. If the service goes down, you’re pretty much out of luck. The best safeguard I’ve seen is that used by ur1.ca (a service by the same company that runs identi.ca…see a pattern here?). ur1.ca provides a safeguard by enabling a download of the entire shortened database of links directly from the site at any time. This is a powerful backup, allowing the data to be safeguarded in multiple places, and the links to be rehydrated by almost anyone, if need be. Great idea!

Even though I’m open during this experimentation phase, it’s notable that two of the most promising tools I’m looking at (identi.ca and ur1.ca) are both services of a company (Control Yourself) that espouses the concept of Open Network Services – sites that use Open Source software to create and distribute Open Content. That resonates with me.