Facebook urged to improve privacy

The coalition of privacy groups, in an open letter to Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, welcomed the social network’s recent overhaul of its privacy controls but said additional steps were needed.


“Facebook continues to push its users into more and more public sharing; sharing that it’s not at all clear members want or fully understand,” said Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the signatories of the letter.

“We’re calling on Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg to respect their members and give them the information and the tools they need for true control,” Bankston said.

Other signatories included the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Consumer Watchdog, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Privacy Activism, Privacy Lives and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

In the letter, the privacy activists asked Facebook to allow users to decide which applications can access their personal data.

Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman, said as part of recent changes, Facebook had added a simple way for users to ensure that none of their information is shared with applications, “even information otherwise available to everyone.”

The privacy activists said an “instant personalization” feature which allows “partner websites” to access data regarding Facebook members should be turned off by default and users who want this feature should have to “opt-in.”

“The instant personalization pilot program has been widely misunderstood,” responded Facebook’s Noyes. “The only information the three partners currently in the program receive from Facebook is users’ public information.

“This means that our partners cannot access anything other than the same information that anyone could access simply by going to a Facebook user’s profile,” he said.

“In addition, we’ve made it easier for people to turn off the instant personalization pilot program, which prevents those, and any future, applications in the program from accessing their information.”

The privacy activists also called for an option for information to be shared in an encrypted mode to protect it from “outside snooping,” a feature Noyes said Facebook was testing and hopes to provide in the coming months.

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