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Facebook announces open privacy settings

27 May 2010

As widely reported by the media in the last 24 hours, Facebook has responded to the ongoing criticism regarding the privacy of its members and announced plans to develop a privacy interface for users.

In a press conference yesterday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg admitted that the settings that exist today had become too complex for most users. "We needed to simplify controls", he told reporters yesterday. "We want people to be able to share information in the way that they want."

The Facebook founder said that his company's "goal is not to make your information more private or more open."

Response to Zuckerburg's comments at the press conference have not been entirely positive, Infosecurity notes, but it seems that some IT seniors are prepared to cut Facebook some slack, providing the company is sufficiently open about its plans.

Amichai Shulman, Imperva's CTO, said he believes that Facebook is now at a serious crossroads as, if it continues giving the impression that consumer privacy is a football, it risks further alienating users.

According to Don Smiths, vice president of engineering and technology at SecureWorks, the changes by Facebook do not go far enough in helping to protect users privacy and reflects the growing concerns about data visibility on the internet. "The changes are definitely an improvement. However, they still do not go far enough in ensuring the default privacy settings minimise disclosure", he said.

Smiths went on to say that, looking at Facebook's default settings over the last six years you can see that privacy eroded from initially sharing only a users name, gender and picture to a default stance of displaying all wall posts, photos, friends and networks to the entire internet.

"For some significant time, privacy advocates have been warning of a collision between social networking sites and the consumer, that the penny would finally drop on who actually owns the data on sites such as Facebook and the implications on data visibility", he said.

"Interestingly, Facebook's apparent disregard for the privacy of their end-users has usefully brought this debate into the public domain", he added.

"Facebook has taken some small steps in the right direction today, it remains to be seen whether others, such as Google have both the will and understanding to continue to do no harm."

This article is featured in:
Compliance and Policy  •  Internet and Network Security


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