Talk about responding to flak: Facebook appears to have finally realized that user privacy concerns about its amazingly popular social networking platform were worth heeding. On Wednesday, Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced new controls for users, making it easier for them to control what information they want to share.
Political pressure certainly had something to do with the Facebook about face, as New York Senator Charles Schumer and a number of consumer and privacy advocacy groups were referenced by Facebook in their press release announcing the changes.
In addition, the Washington Post published an op-ed piece from Zuckerberg outlining the changes and five principles by which Facebook operates:
1. People have control over how their information is shared.
2. Facebook does not share personal information with people or services users don’t want.
3. Facebook does not give advertisers access to people’s personal information.
4. Facebook does not sell any of people’s information to anyone.
5. Facebook will always be a free service for everyone.
Concerning the first two points, Facebook seems to understand that content sharing control is a major issue explaining that it has developed a “…new simple control makes it easy to share on Facebook with friends, friends of friends or everyone–all with just one click.” A simple grid layout will show how the new settings are applied with that information displayed on a single page. No more need to hunt around to find out what changes you need to make—Facebook promises to put it all in one place.
Realizing that users may want to restrict previously shared information, Facebook has also instituted retroactive controls. For users who restrict their information to “Friends Only” or “Friend of Friends,” a couple of clicks by users and that information is restricted as well.
As Facebook moves forward, they’ll also be rolling out new products. In the past, those product introductions are what caused users a lot of heartburn as privacy gradually eroded with each change. Chris Cree explained in his video clip how Facebook has changed over the years, confirming that their respect for user privacy has, indeed, slipped.
Facebook also announced that new products will automatically be set for “Friends Only” if users take advantage of privacy controls. This means that once the new features are in place across its system, you should check your settings accordingly. Facebook has already started the process and expects that full implementation will be complete within the next few weeks.
Zuckerberg and his team have been taking a beating over the past month or so when members of Congress and the European Union squawked about some of its recent changes. Take a look at the press release and you’ll see that Facebook went to extraordinary lengths to quote what experts had to say about their latest changes while reiterating their commitment to ensure privacy.
Let this be a lesson to social networking users: you may not have much power to effect change all by yourself, but when you join forces with millions of other people, that chorus sings a song that is heard ’round the world.
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