5 Ways To Improve Facebook's User Privacy

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It doesn't take long before privacy advocates and users complain about new services introduced by Facebook. This time Senators from across the United States have taken a stand. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are involved and ready to fight.

The senators are taking on the issue of the recent changes to Facebook's privacy policy as well as the Instant Personalization services that allows third-party websites to customize site features to users' tastes. The senators are asking FTC to recommend privacy guidelines for online social networks. This may in turn cause lawmakers to introduce legislation to govern privacy on social networks.

Facebook however, has been responsive to user concerns in the past and may do the same in this situation. According to Ian Paul there are several things Facebook could do to improve their likability.

First Facebook must make the Opt-out option for the Instant Personalization feature much easier to understand. Apparently users are being buried within the privacy settings and Facebook forces users to click several times to opt-out.

Facebook must become much more upfront about changes and rewrites. Last Friday Facebook reworded the privacy policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities unknown to many of it's users.

Stop being vague. Facebook tends to use ambiguous language such as: "Connections. Facebook enables you to connect with virtually anyone and anything you want... Because it takes two to connect, your privacy settings only control who you can see the connection on your profile page."

Reading between the lines you must understand that this connections means at minimum your friends, likes, interests, city, hometown, family, relationships, networks, activities, interests, and places. It is very unclear on how these connections are made public and to whom

Let the user control the information access. Facebook users interacting with a third-party website or application need to have more control over what information those third parties can get from their profiles.

Finally the fifth improvement needed is to bring back the 24-hour user data storage policy. Third parties you interact with are not aloud to sell users Facebook data or use it other than in relation to Facebook. But it does make it easier for rogue sites to build databases on Facebook profile information.

Facebook should heed these warnings or else Congress may take action and soon.


Julia Robinson April 28, 2010 at 9:28 AM  

This was a very interesting blog post. I am one of the many who was unaware of these recent changes to Facebook and I am not extremely pleased to read about them. It seems like Facebook is becoming a little less user-friendly every day, and it won't be long before users get sick of it. After reading this blog post I am definitely going to go review my privacy settings on my own Facebook account!

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