Facebook Info Exposed On Web With 'Everyone' Privacy Setting

Starting Wednesday, Facebook users who logged into the site were treated to a prompt requesting that they review and update their privacy settings. Users had choice of sharing their profile and status updates with "friends," "friends of friends" or "everyone."

Facebook's new privacy updates were accomplished via new transition tool, which directed users to update old privacy settings, while offering suggested new settings. Ignoring the prompts automatically defaulted privacy settings to "everyone" mode -- meaning that everyone on the Internet could potentially have access to information shared on the site.

Ostensibly, the idea behind the privacy changes was to give users direct control over what information they share and with whom. For example, users may want to post a status update promoting a project or business to their larger Facebook network, but share personal information with a much smaller community. The privacy settings enable users to determine -- profile by profile and post by post -- which members of their network have access to what.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced last week in a company blog post that the social networking giant was undergoing a privacy policy overhaul, with the elimination of regional networks and revamped user privacy settings. Facebook began implementing sweeping privacy changes at the beginning of 2009, and began beta testing its updated privacy settings in July.

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"We've worked hard to build controls that we think will be better for you, but we also understand that everyone's needs are different," Zuckerberg said in a blog. "We'll suggest settings for you based on your current level of privacy, but the best way for you to find the right settings is to read through all your options and customize them for yourself. I encourage you to do this and consider who you're sharing with online."

However, what wasn't made immediately clear is what exactly the 'everyone' setting means. In actuality, "everyone" could mean the entirety of the Internet. The "everyone' setting makes users' Facebook information and possibly status updates fair game for Google and other search engine pages, as well as some third-party Facebook-enhanced apps, which are not subjected to the site's privacy policy.

Facebook's privacy redesign was intended to make it more competitive with micro-blogging site Twitter, which touts simplicity and ease of user as major assets. Additionally, Microsoft recently announced a deal that would funnel some Twitter tweets onto the pages of its new search engine, Bing. Microsoft said that it was also currently negotiating a deal with Facebook that would allow status updates content to be incorporated on its search pages.

Microsoft, however, failed to disclose exactly how Facebook posts and updates were to be incorporated into Bing. While not all Facebook updates will be included, The New York Times reported that Bing would likely only publish updates users choose to make available to the public -- which could be a simple as enabling the default "everyone" privacy setting.