Introduction Page Explains Facebook Instant Personalization to Users


By Josh Constine Comment

To educate users and address concerns, Facebook created an introduction page and video for the Instant Personalization program. Some users have come to believe that Instant Personalization shares their private data with third-party websites without their consent, whereas only publicly available basic information and data set to be visible to everyone is shared. The introduction page launched in September but is updated to reflect new partners. Improve understanding of Instant Personalization is crucial to its long-term success.

The launch of Instant Personalization at this April’s f8 was met with criticism of its opt-out default and how it shares data without permission. These concerns were compounded when a minor security breach in Yelp’s Instant Personalization integration incited fears about privacy implications. Facebook halted the roll-out of the program for five months until a second wave of partnerships, including Scribd, Flixster’s Rotten TomatoesMicrosoft’s Bing, and most recently Clicker began in late September.

Somewhere along the way, users may have gotten the impression that Facebook was sharing their private data. At the Bing Instant Personalization launch, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said that “there’s a lot of misconceptions about this. People have this notion that you go to a site and Facebook sends all your information to that site. That’s not true.” Facebook is now confronting these misconceptions head on.

If a user attempts to change their Instant Personalization privacy settings with their Applications and Websites setting, a roadblock pop-up of an informational video appears. It conveys Instant Personalization’s purpose and how users will know if their experience on a website is being personalized. Users must watch or close the video before being able to manipulate their settings.

Text above the video reads, “Just as your News Feed on Facebook is uniquely for you, instant personalization enables select partners, such as Pandora and Rotten Tomatoes, to create social experiences tailored for you.” By equating the program with the news feed, another feature which users initially protested but grew to love, Facebook aims to reassure users that while Instant Personalization might be a little unsettling at first, it will enhance their experience.

If users click to “Learn More”, they’re brought to the new introduction page with the headline “The web is better with friends”. Along with the video, users can also see a list of the current partner sites, a walkthrough of privacy settings, and a link to the Help Center which also displays a prominent red section linking to the video. An explanation of how the program works states “partners adhere to Facebook’s guidelines and may only use your public information to serve you a personalized experience.”

Expanding the program to more sites won’t help users if they disable it during this early stage. These educational efforts should increase the likelihood that users who seek to turn off Instant Personalization are first clear on how it actually works.