Facebook Privacy Changes Under Attack

Dennis Faas's picture

Even as Facebook constantly adjusts its privacy settings to make critics happy, privacy groups remain convinced that the site can do much more to protect the personal information of its many, many members. In a series of recent interviews, Facebook critics have launched new but familiar tirades against the site.

Criticism of Facebook has been mounting over the past year. Privacy groups have sent a reported three letters to federal regulators claiming the site's executives are guilty of illegal activity -- including exposing user information to third parties without consent -- and they promise that even after Facebook's recent changes to try and improve privacy, the attacks won't stop any time soon.

Critics: Facebook Disinterested in User Privacy

"I don't think they really do respect the privacy of their users," said Deborah Pierce, of PrivacyActivism.org.

"It's an operating mode of: you can never ask permission. Always ask forgiveness," added John Simpson, of the group Consumer Watchdog. Some critics, like Robert Ellis Smith of the Privacy Journal, says members are "victimized by Facebook," who draw users in with neat games and fun ways to interact with their friends, only to see their information passed on to the highest bidder. (Source: cnet.com)

"If they were sincere about privacy the default mode for everything would be the minimal amount of sharing and if you wish to share more you would opt in to doing that," Simpson added. (Source: eweek.com)

Privacy Groups Push for New Legislation

The solution, according to many of these critics: a law that will force Facebook and social networking sites like it to prevent a member's personal information from passing between Facebook and a third party without the user knowing about it.

"We want legislation to address this massive and stealth data collection that has emerged," said the Center for Digital Democracy's Jeff Chester.

Reports suggest the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, is currently considering this kind of legislation. It's expected an announcement will be made on the matter sometime later in 2010, with similar laws being considered by the House of Representatives.

Facebook remains convinced that such legislation is unnecessary, that it has done all it can to protect users, and, more importantly, help users protect themselves. "I'd say that our efforts to educate our users have been pretty unprecedented," said Facebook's Barry Schnitt. "We required more than 350 million users to go through a process that required them to check their privacy settings."

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