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Is Facebook truly sorry for its privacy sins?

Facebook's CEO has published a quasi-apology for its crimes against privacy. But Cringe still thinks he doesn't get it

By Robert X. Cringely, InfoWorld
May 24, 2010 08:31 PM ET

InfoWorld - Want an expert lesson in how to respond without actually responding and how to apologize without saying you're sorry? Then you need to read Facebook CEO Mark Zukerberg's quasi-mea culpa in today's Washington Post. Do it now; I'll wait.

12 tips for safe social networking

Zuckerberg's essay comes after more than a month of near silence as Facebook's foes piled on about the social network's rapidly evaporating privacy protections. Until today, the only official response had been from Facebook spokesmodel Eliott Schrage, who tried to deflect the bullets via a smarmy PR session in the New York Times that even Microsoft would find embarrassing.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Cringley laid out the five lessons Facebook needs to learn and warned "Facebook wants to control the Web, like it or not." | Stay up to date on all Robert X. Cringely's observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

Zucky started the ball rolling yesterday with an email he sent to blogging doyenne Robert Scoble in which he admits to making "a bunch of mistakes" recently, without detailing what those mistakes were.

In his Post piece, Zuckerberg also says Facebook "missed the mark" (if not the Mark) but failed to elaborate how, beyond admitting that users find Facebook's privacy controls hopelessly complicated.

(The snarks at eSarcasm have a NSFW version of Zuckerberg's essay; I suspect it's closer to how he really feels.)

Maybe he's just forgotten. You know those geeky 26-year-olds -- all ADD, all the time. So here's a quick recap. Since Facebook announced its intention to share users' data with third-party sites via its "instant personalization" features:

* Macworld reported that Facebook's Connect feature was secretly adding apps to users' profiles.

* Security firm Alert Logic discovered a bug that allowed Facebook users to view their friend's "private" chats.

* Last week college student/blogger Steve Abbagnaro reported a related bug that lets hackers delete someone else's Facebook friends without their permission -- a flaw Facebook claims it has fixed (but Abbagnaro begs to differ).

* The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook has been sharing some user information (including name, age, occupation, and hometown) with advertisers -- violating its own ever-mutable privacy policies -- and has continued to do despite learning about the problem nine months ago.

Facebook swatted most of these bugs, but only after they became public knowledge. One can only guess what other nasties are lurking under the hood, waiting for some blogger or journo to discover them.

The bigger issues about privacy, though, remain. And Zucky's non-apologetic non-explanation isn't helping:

We have heard the feedback. There needs to be a simpler way to control your information. In the coming weeks, we will add privacy controls that are much simpler to use. We will also give you an easy way to turn off all third-party services. We are working hard to make these changes available as soon as possible. We hope you'll be pleased with the result of our work and, as always, we'll be eager to get your feedback.

Originally published on www.infoworld.com. Click here to read the original story.

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