FB tuning privacy to appease critics

2010-05-23 20:13

San Francisco - Facebook on Saturday said it plans to simplify privacy controls at the popular social networking service to appease critics.

"We've spent the last couple of weeks listening to users and consulting with experts in California, Washington, DC, and around the world," Facebook spokesperson Andrew Noyes said in response to an AFP inquiry.

"The messages we've received are pretty clear. Users appreciate having precise and comprehensive controls, but want them to be simpler and easier to use."

Facebook contended that members like new programmes rolled out at the California-based internet hotspot, but want easy ways to opt out of sharing personal information with third-party applications or websites.

"We're listening to this input and incorporating it into innovations we hope to announce shortly," Noyes said.

Facebook has been under fire from US privacy and consumer groups, US lawmakers and the European Union (EU) over new features that critics claim compromise the privacy of its more than 400 million members.

Opt-in or opt-out

The features introduced last month include the ability for partner websites to incorporate Facebook data, a move that would further expand the social network's presence on the internet.

Four US senators, in a letter to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, said they were worried that personal information about Facebook users is being made available to third party websites.

The senators also expressed concerns that "Facebook now obligates users to make publicly available certain parts of their profile that were previously private."

Sharing personal information should be an "opt-in" procedure in which a user specifically gives permission for data to be shared, privacy advocates argue.

Coming Facebook refinements are not expected to include a shift to an opt-in model.

Facebook vice president of global communications Elliot Schrage has been adamant that online privacy is taken very seriously at the company.

"These new products and features are designed to enhance personalisation and promote social activity across the internet while continuing to give users unprecedented control over what information they share, when they want to share it, and with whom," Schrage said.