Facebook wants you to stop oversharing in your profile

 (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)
(Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

According to the old adage, you should never discuss religion and politics if you want to avoid unnecessary conflict. Facebook has belatedly caught up with the sentiment and will remove the option to share such details on your profile from December 1.

The fields for addresses and sexual orientation (“Interested in”) will also be taken away. Facebook is allowing affected users to download this data before it’s gone, even if it does seem like the kind of information they’re unlikely to forget.

“As part of our efforts to make Facebook easier to navigate and use, we’re removing a handful of profile fields: Interested In, Religious Views, Political Views, and Address,” a spokesperson for Meta said in a widely shared statement.

“We’re sending notifications to people who have these fields filled out, letting them know these fields will be removed. This change doesn’t affect anyone’s ability to share this information about themselves elsewhere on Facebook.”

In practical terms, this means that Facebook profiles will be a bit more streamlined and, while this may seem like a nod to privacy, it actually doesn’t make that much difference to the privacy-conscious. These fields were always optional, after all, and oversharers are still free to broadcast their political and religious views across their wall and in groups, if they choose.

Still, the very fact that this change is being widely viewed through a privacy lens shows just how far the debate about internet privacy has come in recent years. After all, it was just 12 years ago that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed that privacy was no longer a “social norm”.

In truth, the fields did feel a little bit dated — a throwback to when Facebook’s main competition was MySpace and Bebo, which both provided similar hubs devoted to copious biographical information. Today, the fashion is for brevity with platforms, from TikTok to Twitter, and Meta’s own Instagram all providing far more basic profile fields to be filled in creatively, without census-style prompts.

As well as bringing it in line with rival social platforms, this is one less feature for Facebook to maintain. That’s undeniably useful at a time when Facebook, like many other tech giants, is having to make painful cutbacks.