Facebook users warned personal data at risk as European watchdog attacks ‘unacceptable’ privacy policy

Daily Mail
13.05.2010
By Claire Bates

Facebook is facing a massive backlash from users after a European watchdog condemned their privacy policy as ‘unacceptable.’

Changes to security settings meant 400million members had no option but to share personal details with the internet at large in December.

Facebook made these changes despite meeting with European data protection officials just days earlier.

The company further altered its settings in April when it introduced a new tool called a ’social plug-in’ in an attempt to extend its reach further across the web.

These enable Facebook’s users to share their interests in such products as clothes, movies and music on other websites.

For instance, you might hit a button on Levis.com indicating you like a certain style of jeans, and then recommend a movie on another site.

It means yet more personal information is broadcast through a user’s networks, unless they consciously opt out.

Facebook is also intent on sharing members’ personal information with business review service Yelp, music service Pandora and Microsoft’s Docs.com for word processing and spreadsheets.

Again those who don’t want to be part of the expansion must opt out rather than opt in.

Yesterday The Article 29 Working Party, made up of European data protection authorities, strongly condemned Facebook in a public letter.

Meanwhile an attempt by Facebook’s vice president Elliot Shrage to allay privacy concerns in the U.S backfired.

He gave an interview to the New York Times, which had received over 300 questions from readers worried about how their private information was being treated.

Mr Shrage was accused of glossing over their concerns. He explained their policies by saying: ‘We’ve worked hard to educate our users about changes to, and innovations in, our products.

‘Facebook users receive notices about our new products and whenever we propose a change to any policies governing the site, we have notified users and solicited feedback.’

However, the social network’s privacy policy is extremely complex with 50 settings and 170 options. It is also 5,830 words long, which is longer that the United States constitution.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly called an emergency conference tomorrow to deal with the growling backlash.

The most likely change to come out of tomorrow’s crisis meeting will be the temporary removal of the ‘Instant Personalization’ service, or an ‘opt-in’ button.

Mr Zuckerberg, 25, is also facing the major headache of losing users in droves. The phrase ‘How to quit Facebook’ garnered 18.2million results in a Google search this morning.

Full article

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