One of the features that attract people to Facebook is the ability to “block” certain individuals like bosses, coworkers, and family from being able to view possibly incriminating or humiliating photos and status updates. These privacy settings are unique to Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg filed a patent application back in 2006 for the function– titled as “”Dynamically generating a privacy summary.” The application said: “As social networking has grown more popular, users have realized a need for a certain amount of privacy…not every particular user wants all the other users to be able to access the information about the particular user.” So true.
After a six-year wait and multiple rejections, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office finally approved the patent for Facebook’s privacy settings. (U.S. patent 8,225,376) The patent summarizes how the privacy setting works: “One or more privacy setting selections are received from the user associated with the profile. The profile associated with the user is updated to incorporate the one or more privacy setting selections. A privacy summary is then generated for the profile based on the one or more privacy setting selections.”
Even though Facebook now has a patent for its complex privacy setting (the patent was reportedly rejected multiple times for its Section 103 “obviousness”), you should still be careful about what you post on Facebook. There are apps such as Stalkbook, which have tried to get around Facebook’s privacy settings to allow a user to view ALL of another individual’s profile, including hidden content.