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Facebook continues to face heat over privacy

Facebook's announcement last week of simpler privacy settings was a good first step, users and privacy advocates said. But the company is continuing to sweat it out from pressure around the world that it still isn’t doing enough. And the biggest concerns revolve around their policy to share information about users unless their subscribers proactively opt-out.

Many have already seen the D8 conference video of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (highly suggest following Twitter hashtag #D8 on his speech – the sweat! the hoodie! the drama!), where the founder literally was under heat from privacy questions by The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.

Today, the company’s former head of privacy said the social network for near 500 million users hasn’t gone far enough.

Chris Kelly, who is running for California Attorney General, said his former employer is still leaving its users vulnerable because of an opt-out policy for users who don’t want their information shared with partner sites Yelp, Pandora and Microsoft's Docs. Specifically he emailed MoveOn’s email listserve saying Facebook’s opt-out policy for Instant Personalization – where a subscriber’s list of contacts automatically appear on those partner sites.

”Today, I remain troubled by the news that Facebook still plans to offer only an opt-out to ‘instant personalization’—meaning that users' information will be shared with third parties without clear consent,” Kelly wrote to MoveOn’s listserve. He called on members to sign join the 171,00-member strong Facebook group: “Facebook: Respect my privacy.”

Facebook said its instant personalization program is easier to shut off with new privacy settings announced last week.

In addition, Germany’s consumer protection minister, Ilse Aigner, said Thursday that after meeting with Facebook’s European policy director about the company’s recent privacy changes, she had “doubts as to whether these improvements will really bring a true turning point,” according to the Associated Press.

Aigner said she plans to delete her Facebook account and said that her meeting with the company "unfortunately confirmed my skepticism."

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said the meeting with Aigner was "constructive."

"We appreciate Minister Aigner's willingness to share her views with us on how we should further develop our model of privacy and user control and we will reflect on this, as we constantly do with others policy makers in Europe and elsewhere," he said.

By Cecilia Kang  |  June 3, 2010; 10:43 AM ET
Categories:  FTC , Facebook , Privacy  
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Comments

Only a few years ago I used to hear from my children's shools several times per school year, abou the dangers of online communities like Facebook. Back then we were only worried about some unsavory pervert hacking their way into our children's entries and learing at their posted pictures, or even worse, tracking them down at a soccer game or band concert. Somehow the whole notion of worrying about how information we post online might be used seems to have been forgotten in a few short years. Is it really possible that Facebook has somehow figured out how to keep all those unsavory characters out of our Facebook entries, or have we just grown used to the idea that there will always be disgusting lurkers out there spying on us. Oh wait, now we know that it is actually the people who run Facebook who are the disgusting lurkers, and yet we seem ok with that.

What is it going to take for us as a society to say we would again like some privacy. I know I know, we can chose not to post on these sites, but is that good enough? I suppose we could say the same thing about warrentless wiretapping, we could just not use the phone or email since we know that they are all being monitored, but doesn't our Constitution, and common decency demand more? These online "social networks" are now telling us that the data mining they do is actually for our benefit. How else are we going to get the full benefit of modern computer technology if their computers don't know what we are interested in, where we live, if we do or don't have a cat, if we are straight or bi, who our friends are, etc. etc. on and on. Does anyone with a brain in their head really believe that this is all benign? I am reminded of the multitude of attempts by Congress to pass some sort of law that would keep our government records secret. Every time they try, the industry lobbiests explain to these brilliant Congress people that the American people really want companies to know when they have a new child, or buy a car, or build a new pool, or have a loved one die (all things that are now feely accessable from the government, to anyone who wants to know). As crazy as it seems, I actually don't have any particular desire for anyone to know what kind of car I drive, or what building permits I have, or the time and date or birth and the sex and hair color of my new baby. I guess I am in a small minority of people who don't really see any benefit to the free exchange of personal information about ourselves.

Posted by: bjuhasz | June 3, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

The disturbing part is that there is no way to protect oneself if you have any "friends" at all. My settings allow ONLY friends (NO friends of friends) to see things on my Facebook pages. I choose my friends carefully. Problem is when people choose to engage in some of the games or trade "hugs" or "hearts", up pops the little box that says that if you accept the invitation, the application will pull all of your information AND that of ALL your friends in order for it to work. You can then choose to accept the terms or leave. I can leave as many times as I want but my PRIVACY IS IN THE HANDS OF MY FRIENDS TOO and I do not like that!!!

Facebook can simply say........we didn't compromise your privacy "Freddy your Friend" did it!

Posted by: OregonStorm | June 3, 2010 11:46 PM | Report abuse

The disturbing part is that there is no way to protect oneself if you have any "friends" at all. My settings allow ONLY friends (NO friends of friends) to see things on my Facebook pages. I choose my friends carefully. Problem is when people choose to engage in some of the games or trade "hugs" or "hearts", up pops the little box that says that if you accept the invitation, the application will pull all of your information AND that of ALL your friends in order for it to work. You can then choose to accept the terms or leave. I can leave as many times as I want but my PRIVACY IS IN THE HANDS OF MY FRIENDS TOO and I do not like that!!!

Facebook can simply say........we didn't compromise your privacy "Freddy your Friend" did it!

Posted by: OregonStorm | June 3, 2010 11:47 PM | Report abuse

Shouldn't there be disclosure of the links between the Post and Facebook?

Posted by: subwayguy | June 4, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

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