A Facebook privacy scanner that can adjust settings for you

Not quite satisfied with Facebook’s new streamlined privacy controls?

Redwood City-based ReputationDefender has launched a more visual alternative to the social network’s tools. It’s a bookmarklet that you can drag and drop into your browser’s top bar, which you can use while logged into Facebook. After you click on its button, it will visually show you how much of your information is exposed and then adjust it for you based on a simple colored slider.

The app resembles an amalgam of developer Matt McKeon’s viral infographic, which showed Facebook’s default privacy settings becoming more public over time, and ReclaimPrivacy, a bookmarklet and privacy scanner independently created by another developer last month. But ReclaimPrivacy only tells you what your settings are. It doesn’t change them for you.

ReputationDefender’s privacy app works best for people who don’t need a lot of granular control by suggesting that users keep almost of their information accessible to only their friends. Facebook, by contrast, has defaults that make users’ bios, status updates, photos, posts, family and relationships entirely public.

But in its current state, the app is not usable for people who manage their privacy around friend groups. For example, if you have a work group of friends and a Facebook group for close friends, and you have different privacy settings for each, the bookmarklet will override that distinction. Michael Fertik, ReputationDefender’s chief executive, says that will change though.

“The idea is to make it usable by my mom and my dad,” he said. “It’s not for engineers or tech wonks.”

When Facebook unveiled its own set of privacy changes last week, the company said it had a similar motivation in making its controls more accessible to everyday consumers.

“We just needed to simplify a number of controls to a level that my mom could understand,” Facebook’s vice president of product Chris Cox told us last week.

But Fertik noted that many of Facebook’s defaults, in suggesting that users make their status updates public, hadn’t changed.

“If you change the goal posts after people have already bought in — not openly and decisively, but rather by eroding their control quietly — and you make it as friction-free to go one way and as difficult as possible to go the other way and allow users to restore their settings, you can continue to boil the frog without it noticing,” he said.

Fertik said he was skeptical of Facebook’s rhetoric that it values privacy control.

“Fundamentally, if you’re selling access to eyeballs, you cannot truly care about privacy because it’s anathema to the business model,” said Fertik, whose company sells products that monitor people’s reputations and privacy online.

ReputationDefender last raised $8.7 million from Bessemer Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers and Maples Investments in January.

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