New Facebook privacy settings spark concerns

Facebook’s decision to launch new privacy settings, designed to simplify the process for its 350 million users has sparked concern from privacy lobbyists.


The move is the latest in a long line of changes that have been made to its privacy policy this year and are designed to help users take control of what data will show up in Google search results, when the two companies partner on real-time results from next month.

According to Facebook, only 15-20% of users have ever adjusted their settings. Facebook will make recommendations about how widely available different postings should be.

The new publisher privacy control means users can select a privacy setting for each piece of content, from updates to photos, meaning they can tailor their posts for specific audiences. Users will be asked to choose one of three categories; friends, friends of friends, or everyone.

However, campaigners have reacted angrily to the announcement, suggesting users will not fully understand their privacy options under the new rules.

Kevin Bankston, a senior attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that campaigns for the rights of internet users, argues: “These new ‘privacy’ changes are clearly intended to push Facebook users to publicly share even more information than before. Even worse, the changes will actually reduce the amount of control that users have over some of their personal data.”

A spokesperson for Privacy Action told Marketing Week that the websire must take more steps to ensure that users are aware of their complete privacy settings and can avoid anything that may make them uncomfortable.

“With data going further online, users must feel confident that they have a way to prevent any other Facebook user or Google user from viewing this information on your profile,” she stresses.

Facebook said that the changes were intended to give users more control over their information and not to endanger their privacy.

Elliot Schrage, the company’s vice president of global communications, says: “You will have the opportunity to customise even individual pieces of content when you upload a picture or a video. If you want to share a photo with just your family, you could do that as well. It is much more straightforward.”

Yesterday, the Information Commissioner’s Office launched an online consultation on a new draft code of practice which will provide organisations with a practical and common sense approach to protecting individuals’ privacy online.

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