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Facebook privacy changes would share user data with other sites

On Friday afternoon, Facebook announced a set of proposed changes to its privacy policy that could allow the popular social network to share more of its users' data with other sites without first getting their approval.


The move builds on the Palo Alto, Calif., company's December revision of its privacy rules that made far more user information -- including individual status updates -- public by default. Under the new proposal, Facebook could then provide that data to "pre-approved third party websites and applications" unless a user opted out of that feature.

The idea sounds a little like Beacon in reverse: Where that now-shuttered program had Facebook publishing details of users' activities on other sites to their Facebook profiles, here Facebook would push some of their profile data out to other sites.

You can read a draft of the new privacy policy (along with a proposed update to Facebook's "Statement of Rights and Responsibilities" that contains fewer revisions). But the best way to grasp the possible changes is to view the "Redline Version," with deletions in strikethrough text and additions underlined. Beyond the potential exposure outlined in its fourth section, "Information You Share With Third Parties," the document removes a prior mention of location-based features and adds vague references to places, which suggests that Facebook is still considering how to compete with such location-aware services as Foursquare. See Inside Facebook's analysis for a more detailed look at what all these changes might mean.

(The usual disclaimers apply: Facebook chief privacy officer Chris Kelly, now on leave to run for political office, is a friend from college. Washington Post Co. Chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham sits on Facebook's board of directors. Many Post staffers, myself included, use public Facebook pages to connect with readers.)

Beacon ended badly, with Facebook paying $9.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit, and this venture might as well. It's already drawn sharp criticism from ReadWriteWeb and All Facebook, among other sites.

Facebook hasn't helped its cause by inadequately publicizing these possible changes. The only notice I got when I logged into my account Friday was a bland update from Facebook Site Governance that began, "We've proposed updates to our Privacy Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities," and then failed to offer a hint of the nature of those updates.

But the Site Governance page -- the company's thoughtful response to a privacy uprising last spring -- may also save it from its worst instincts. Most other companies can't be bothered to document line-by-line revisions of their privacy policies, much less invite public comment on the changes beforehand.

Facebook users have from now until 12 a.m. Pacific on Friday to share their views. Will they take advantage of this opportunity? And how will the company respond? Tell me in the comments what you'd say, and what you'd expect Facebook to do with that input.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  March 29, 2010; 12:24 PM ET
Categories:  Privacy , Social media  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Comcast helps subscribers, holds itself back with Fancast Xfinity TV site
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Just another reason not to use Facebook.

Posted by: gmclain | March 29, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Social media sites have already been doing this for quite some time in a pirated fashion.

Facebook would now be so bold as to outright do this and ask if this is ok? lol...

*munches on cheeseburger*

Posted by: cbmuzik | March 29, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

"Just another reason not to use Facebook."

Posted by: gmclain

I couldn't agree more. Wow!

Posted by: Arlington4 | March 29, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Facebook just lost this user.

Posted by: millerolivia | March 29, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

The ever present and active debate of Opt-in versus Opt-out.

What happened to transparency?

Posted by: indigos_world | March 29, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Inspired by reading this column, I just tried to offer comments to Facebook on their policy changes, which I am very much against. However, to be able comment one first has to become a "fan" of their governance page.[This is also the only way to get future notices of governance changes.] Then to actually post the comment, one has to be "verified" in their system which means providing them with one's cell phone number. Given their past and proposed decreases in protection of personal information, there is no way that I will give them my cell phone number. If their policies go through as proposed, I will certainly delete my account!

Posted by: ATMD | March 29, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I have had my doubts about Facebook before. IF this stupidity is allowed to move forward, I will most definately be removing my useracess from the site with a warning from my attorney about respecting my right to privacy.

This is beyond obscene. Why do these sites think it is okay to violate the inherent privacy, not the public postings, but the detailed information required to do anything on these sites?

Nope, if they pass this change and start pushing our personal data out to these other areas, this will be one less user on the FACEBOOK site.

Like they really care?

Posted by: hhodges1 | March 29, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I'd be happy to share my views with FB. I have to wonder, though, if this time would be any different from all the other times I shared my views, as well as things like reporting spam groups, only to be ignored outright.

I have 85 FB friends, but only a handful of them update at all regularly. With too much more of this privacy chicanery, I'd say FB is right on the edge of their inevitable decline into Internet history.

Posted by: john65001 | March 29, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

A part of me wonders why Facebook does things like this. I mean it doesn't take a genius to know that users will lash out against anything that's opt-out. But then I remember, the objective of all business is to make money. Sure facebook will lose a few million users but the vast majority will

a) surrender to our FB overloads and just take it

b) do nothing and not even realize the changes taking place.

Have you ever tried to view the pages of strangers on FB? A vast majority of people don't use the privacy tools.

Posted by: tundey | March 30, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Blogging anonymously gives a path to blogger’s sincere thoughts.
True told, thoughts should not be secret, in a healthy society. But unfortunately is not the case. Vindictiveness is rampant, and faulty personalities with access to power can and cause big damage to others, nonchalantly many times. Zionism for instance denies each and every big, small and in between criticism; and you know how powerfully they play.
Then, why I’d use Facebook if my track can inspire a Zionist demi-boss to seek and fire me?

Posted by: SouthStar | March 30, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately this is the way it is with all social media. As much as we like to think we're in control of our own information we post online, the truth is we aren't. Once it's out there, it's out there. And very hard to take back.

Royce Renteria

Posted by: justanothermember | March 30, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I started using FB a year ago, at the suggestion of a few young people in my life. It has been fun to keep up with younger members of my family.
BUT I can give it up easily, and I believe they will, too, if FB chooses to invade more of our privacy. Last week they may have beaten Google for the first and ONLY time.

Posted by: retiredteacher1 | March 30, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Your readers may find this in-depth article on the implications of the policy changes of companies such as Facebook and Google Buzz interesting.

The article is titled "Trust and the Trillion Dollar Brain."

Here's a link:

Kind Regards:

Dave Harrison

Posted by: tradewithdavedotcom | April 5, 2010 8:10 AM | Report abuse

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