Wouldn’t it be great if the growing competition between Google and Facebook led to a privacy arms race, with the companies trying to one-up each other with new privacy tools?
Both companies’ products are not private by nature. To use their services, you feed them personal information that they use to target advertising.
But they’re trying.
Last November, Google added a “dashboard” that lets users see and manage settings for their various Google accounts. Today Facebook released its version, a dashboard for users’ Facebook applications that also lets them download and save everything they’ve posted on the site.
The social network also upgraded its Groups feature for managing lists of friends and what is shared with whom. Friend lists were rolled out in 2007, but they weren’t easy to use. With much hoopla in December 2009, Facebook overhauled and simplified its sharing and privacy features to give users more control over sharing and friend lists.
“We’re adding something that many of you have asked for — the ability to control who sees each individual piece of content you create or upload. In addition, we’ll also be fulfilling a request made by many of you to make the privacy settings page simpler by combining some settings,” Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said at the time.
Today Facebook is trying once again, with a revised Groups system. During a press event, Zuckerberg said only 5 percent of users have used the previous tools to create lists.
Its new “spaces” feature lets users create small, private groups of friends to share things and chat on a more ad hoc basis. It sounds kind of like a privacy-enabled version of Google’s soon-to-be-shuttered Wave service, which let people assemble groups of contacts to chat and share things.
“It’s a simple way to stay up to date with small groups of your friends and to share things with only them in a private space. The default setting is Closed, which means only members see what’s going on in a group,” Zuckerberg said in a blog post today.
We’ll have to see if more than 5 percent use the new tools for sharing private things on the social network.