Facebook Plans a Privacy Summit

Facing a growing chorus of dissatisfaction from users, pundits, critics, and lawmakers, Facebook is reportedly holding an all hands meeting on to address the company's latest privacy backlash. It's unknown what the social network intends to discuss at its meeting, but the company may consider temporarily suspending its new Instant Personalization feature, according to All Facebook.

By Ian Paul
Thu, May 13, 2010

PC World — Facing a growing chorus of dissatisfaction from users, pundits, critics, and lawmakers, Facebook is reportedly holding an all hands meeting on to address the company's latest privacy backlash. It's unknown what the social network intends to discuss at its meeting, but the company may consider temporarily suspending its new Instant Personalization feature, according to All Facebook.

Facebook Bible: Everything You Need to Know About Facebook

F8

The recent backlash and privacy concerns about Facebook began shortly after the company's F8 developer's conference in late April. During the conference's keynote speech, Facebook unveiled a variety of new user features, including the universal Like button and Instant Personalization, a feature that allows a Web site to cater to your personal tastes based on information from your Facebook profile.

The social network also unveiled other features such as the Open Graph API and social plugins, all of which are meant to add a social dimension to your user experience as you visit sites outside of Facebook. When you visit a site like CNN.com, for example, the activity stream plugin can show you a list of actions your Facebook friends have taken on the site such as what articles they have liked or recommended.

The FTC

Less than a week after Facebook unveiled its new features at F8, four U.S. Senators--Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)--asked the Federal Trade Comission to set privacy rules for online social networks. The four senators also sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg detailing their concerns with Facebook's expansion of publicly available data, the company's third-party data storage policies, and privacy concerns surrounding the Instant Personalization service.Then, in early May, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and 14 other public interest groups lodged a formal complaint against Facebook with the FTC. The goal is to "restore privacy settings that were previously available...give users meaningful control over personal information, and seek other appropriate injunctive and compensatory relief."

Chief among the privacy complaints were concerns over the Instant Personalization service, and how difficult Facebook makes it to block the service completely. The complaint also took issue with Facebook's decision to make a user's likes and interests publicly available by default despite the fact that a majority of users signed up for Facebook with the understanding that information would remain private. The complaint also says Facebook's Privacy Policy is "designed to confuse users and to frustrate attempts to limit the public disclosure of personal information that many Facebook users choose to share only with family and friends."

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