Facebook CTO Bret Taylor: Majority Use The Privacy Settings

Facebook's Chief Technology Officer Bret Taylor said that the majority of the site's membership use the privacy settings.

Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer Bret Taylor said that the majority of the people using the social network have privacy settings enabled.

Taylor said this while filling his boss’s shoes by appearing in a panel at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.

Previous Web 2.0 conferences have featured Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg on a panel with John Battelle, executive chairman of Federated Media. This time around he’s talked to Taylor instead. Alas, he only stuck around for 15 minutes, but we’ve got a pretty good recap of what he said.

John Battelle asked Bret Taylor whether Facebook and Google Plus are going to “get over it and start sharing… I would love to have used my Facebook contacts to populate my Google Circles and vice versa. Will there be a time when data will move between both platforms?”

Taylor called it a good question and responded:

I think data portability is interesting becasue it’s very easy in the context of single-user services. Bringing your data elsewhere is simple then. It gets complex with the intersection of several features. And an example of that is the address book on Facebook. If I put my contacts there and put privacy settings on, what are my rights? Should you have the ability to take that data to another site with different privacy? Recently the site added a box that people could use to allow their friends to download data from their profile.

The majority of people on Facebook have modified their privacy settings. I think the people who use Facebook a lot are very, very aware of privacy settings. They know exactly what their current boyfriend or ex can see. As our service has grown, there’s a lot of increasing scrutiny on how we provide our service. If we can make your privacy controls so transparent that you are comfortable with sharing data on Facebook, that’s good. We certainly hope to make the privacy settings as accessible as possible.

Then Battelle asked Taylor to explain the activity log, and Facebook’s CTO responded:

Activity log is a new feature, part of our timeline. It’s a private page that’s the backend of your timeline, all content you’ve shared on Facebook for all time. You can browse it, and navigate by time. It’s a single place on Facebook where you can see all your information. If we can give people granularity over the control of sharing data, the more these products will see. If you’re going for a job interview, you can go back and change photos of yourself posted in college. A lot of that was there before but we made it more accessible.

Battelle asked Taylor whether different types of advertising will arise because of how radically different the timeline page is. He agreed that it’s a huge departure from prior design on Facebook, and said that ads weren’t the focus as much as design was.

Then Battelle brought up how Sean Parker earlier this week said that power users have become disenchanted with Facebook and are moving to Google Plus and Twitter. Taylor responded:

People who were in college when Facebook was only available to students make up the power users; Facebook is very concerned about addressing their needs for nuanced controls and features. He worries that Facebook has moved toward complexity too often. Smart friend lists have been well received. Subscribe is also designed to reach a broad audience. Our news feed is really good at finding you the most engaging content. The folks who have turned on subscribe have seen unprecedented levels of engagement. I’m really bullish about that feature because it has a lot of potential to reach all 800 million users.

An audience member asked Taylor whether Facebook might follow in MySpace’s footsteps. He responded that he thinks the site is really important.

Our vision is that social isn’t just a destination. It’s about personalization and discovery of apps. We want to make Facebook an ecosystem, and a compelling system, a platform and not a destination.

Readers, what do you think about what Taylor said during the Web 2.0 panel?

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