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Facebook users speak out against new privacy settings

Personal information inadvertently exposed via Facebook privacy scheme, users complain

By , Network World
December 09, 2009 04:43 PM ET

Network World - Many Facebook users expressed anger at the site Wednesday for changing privacy settings, which they say caused personal information to be inadvertently exposed.

Facebook employee Ruchi Sanghvi explained the changes in an official Facebook blog post titled "New tools to control your experience," which received about 500 comments from users, many of them critical of privacy changes.

"Great … job. Now everyone who isn't even my friend can see my profile," one user wrote. "This is ridiculous. I'm not an idiot, I've searched thru all the settings for over an hour and now friends of mine who I did not want seeing stuff can now see stuff. I have tried blocking them and customizing them and now all my [information] is exposed."

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Many other Facebook users apparently approve of the privacy changes, since more than 2,400 clicked the "like" button on Sanghvi's blog post.

But criticism came from numerous quarters. Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote that some of Facebook's new settings "have created new and serious privacy problems for users of the popular social network service."

Blogger Marshall Kirkpatrick, vice president of content development at ReadWriteWeb, called the privacy settings "near Orwellian." 

"The company says the move is all about helping users protect their privacy and connect with other people, but the new default option is to change from 'old settings' to becoming visible to 'everyone,'" Kirkpatrick writes. "This is not what Facebook users signed up for. It's not about privacy at all, it's about increasing traffic and the visibility of activity on the site."

The Facebook announcement said the site is requiring all 350 million users to review and update their settings.

"If you've ever chosen to restrict access to parts of your profile, we'll be recommending that you keep those more restrictive settings," Sanghvi wrote. "If you've never done this, we'll be making recommendations based on how lots of people are sharing information today. For example, we'll be recommending that you make available to everyone a limited set of information that helps people find and connect with you, information like "About Me" and where you work or go to school. For more sensitive information, like photos and videos in which you've been tagged and your phone number, we'll be recommending a more restrictive setting."

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Users who commented on the Facebook blog post were frustrated by attempts to navigate the new privacy system.

"I've been trying to hide the Wall, Friend Lists, and Pages to non-friends without avail," one user wrote. "I'm pretty sure they were hidden before I went through the Transition Tool, and now I can't find the control to hide them. Facebook, your intention may be nice, but your execution is seriously flawed."

Another user wrote that "I did not give permission to show my 'likes' to everybody. Please correct. Also I did not give permission to show my complete friends list to all my friends. Please correct."

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