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Facebook and Privacy: What a Mess

Facebook has unveiled new user controls, but it isn't likely to calm anger about the social network's privacy policies.

By Jr Raphael, PC World
May 13, 2010 06:51 PM ET

PC World - Facebook has just unveiled a new set of user controls, but it isn't likely to do much in the way of calming anger about the social network's privacy policies.

The new controls, announced at the official Facebook blog on Thursday, revolve around Facebook security. One new setting allows you to receive login notifications anytime someone accesses your Facebook account from an unknown device; another provides supplemental security questions during "suspicious logins."

Neither, however, does anything to fix the massive mess with how Facebook is handling your personal information.

Facebook Privacy: A Formal Warning

Facebook, suffice it to say, isn't exactly feeling the universal "like" these days.

Amidst a brewing backlash against the social network and the privacy labyrinth it's created, the company is now getting an unpleasant poke from European privacy protectors.

The Article 29 Working Party, a confusingly named division of the European Union's Justice and Home Affairs' Data Protection division, sent a letter to Facebook expressing its discontent over the social network's slew of recent privacy changes. From the UJHADPA29WP, as it shall henceforth be known:

"The Article 29 Working Party, the group of European data protection authorities, told Facebook in a letter today that it is unacceptable that the company fundamentally changed the default settings on its social-networking platform to the detriment of a user."

Or, in more succinct terms: "Oy."

Facebook Privacy: The Bigger Picture

The EU's warning echoes the general sentiment being expressed across the blogosphere these days: Facebook's new privacy setup is simply out of control. I recently read that people who actually like Facebook's privacy changes fall into three distinct groups: They (a) believe their personal lives are utterly fascinating; (2) are too busy playing Farmville to notice, or (d) are Robert Scoble. I don't know how scientific the analysis is, but it sure seems about right.

Facebook, for its part, is hoping some carefully worded PR-speak can help ease the tension. Elliot Schrage, the company's vice president for public policy, answered a handful of reader-submitted questions about Facebook privacy for The New York Times. His responses are enlightening. Provided that by "enlightening," you mean "not at all helpful."

For example:

Q: "It used to be that I could limit what strangers saw about me to almost nothing. I could not show my profile picture, not allow them to 'poke' or message me, certainly not allow them to view my profile page. Now, even my interests have to be public information. Why can't I control my own information anymore?"

A: "Joining Facebook is a conscious choice by vast numbers of people who have stepped forward deliberately and intentionally to connect and share. We study user activity. We've found that a few fields of information need to be shared to facilitate the kind of experience people come to Facebook to have. That's why we require the following fields to be public: name, profile photo (if people choose to have one), gender, connections (again, if people choose to make them), and user ID number. Facebook provides a less satisfying experience for people who choose not to post a photo or make connections with friends or interests. But, other than name and gender, nothing requires them to complete these fields or share information they do not want to share. If you're not comfortable sharing, don't."

Originally published on Click here to read the original story.

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