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Facebook Scrambles after Unexpected Privacy Fumble 196

bart_scriv writes "Facebook is responding to the recent uproar among its users by deploying better privacy protections and control, as well as being more open about future changes. This could be a case study for other social networking sites on how to avoid or deal with similar problems in the future." From the article: "A week before launch, when asked if he was concerned about a privacy backlash, he appeared surprised, saying, 'No, these people share stuff already and they get something out of sharing.' They've shared all right. And Facebook is listening. On Sept. 7, the site is ratcheting up privacy protections--the result of around-the-clock coding. On their privacy settings page, people will be given greater control over what items will or won't be included in news feeds." Relatedly, an anonymous reader writes "A recent Reuters article mentions that Facebook user Igor Hiller, 17, a freshman at University of California, Santa Barbara is organizing a real-world demonstration next Monday at Facebook's downtown Palo Alto headquarters." Read below for Zuckerman's Open Letter to the community.
theStorminMormon writes ""We really messed this one up." begins an open letter from Mark Zuckerberg to the Facebook community. The letter goes on to say: "When we launched News Feed and Mini-Feed we were trying to provide you with a stream of information about your social world. Instead, we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I'd like to try to correct those errors now.

When I made Facebook two years ago my goal was to help people understand what was going on in their world a little better. I wanted to create an environment where people could share whatever information they wanted, but also have control over whom they shared that information with. I think a lot of the success we've seen is because of these basic principles.

We made the site so that all of our members are a part of smaller networks like schools, companies or regions, so you can only see the profiles of people who are in your networks and your friends. We did this to make sure you could share information with the people you care about. This is the same reason we have built extensive privacy settings — to give you even more control over who you share your information with.

Somehow we missed this point with Feed and we didn't build in the proper privacy controls right away. This was a big mistake on our part, and I'm sorry for it. But apologizing isn't enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly. So we have been coding nonstop for two days to get you better privacy controls. This new privacy page will allow you to choose which types of stories go into your Mini-Feed and your friends' News Feeds, and it also lists the type of actions Facebook will never let any other person know about. If you have more comments, please send them over.

This may sound silly, but I want to thank all of you who have written in and created groups and protested. Even though I wish I hadn't made so many of you angry, I am glad we got to hear you. And I am also glad that News Feed highlighted all these groups so people could find them and share their opinions with each other as well.

About a week ago I created a group called Free Flow of Information on the Internet, because that's what I believe in — helping people share information with the people they want to share it with. I'd encourage you to check it out to learn more about what guides those of us who make Facebook. Tomorrow at 4pm est, I will be in that group with a bunch of people from Facebook, and we would love to discuss all of this with you. It would be great to see you there.

Thanks for taking the time to read this,

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Facebook Scrambles after Unexpected Privacy Fumble

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  • by Wormholio ( 729552 ) on Friday September 08, 2006 @10:41AM (#16066172)
    I didn't know about this until I saw the slashdot article. I don't check facebook that often. Suddenly all sorts of events about what I've done, and what my friends have been doing, are visible. That's nice if you wanted it that way, but I didn't.

    They added a new feature. They now have a "privacy" control which lets you select what is shown about you and your goings on and what is not shown. And the defaults, for someone who didn't even know about this, are to show everything.

    This may end up being a nice feature in the long run, but the initial defaults should have been OFF for everything.
  • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Friday September 08, 2006 @11:09AM (#16066421)
    There's a difference between walking by a pile of shit and having a pile of shit dropped in front of you.

    I suppose. But from where I'm viewing this, this is more a matter of people having jumped into a pile of shit months ago and only now wondering why they're starting to stink.

    Let's review the Rules for Living in a Networked World:

    1. Don't put anything in an e-mail that you wouldn't want your boss, your wife, your child, or the Attorney General's Office to read.

    2. Don't put anything on a website linked to your name that you wouldn't want Anyone, Anywhere, Now or Forever, linked to you.

    It's simple really: Think someday, maybe, possibly, slight chance, back-of-your-mind, you might want to run for public office? Stay away from MySpace and Facebook and their ilk like they were kryptonite.

  • Re:Push/pull news (Score:3, Informative)

    by mypalmike ( 454265 ) on Friday September 08, 2006 @01:42PM (#16067632) Homepage
    Similarly, checking out the latest article from blog Y is not the same thing as subscribing to the RSS feed from blog Y. Some people may prefer one to the other, but they are not the same thing The information you get, however, is. So this proves my point: that there's more to this question than just what information is available. This is so manifestly obvious that it's frustrating to believe there are people too stupid to realize this, and thick enough to actually argue that it's not the case.

    Put me in the stupid column then. It's basic information theory. Signalling versus polling. The only informational difference between an external signal and a repetitious poll is the latency of the information. If I can poll your information with a reasonably high frequency, you are essentially providing a feed.

One can't proceed from the informal to the formal by formal means.