Facebook’s New Privacy Settings an Improvement Over the Old–Which Isn’t Saying Much
Announcing Facebook’s newest set of privacy controls this morning, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “We are really going to try to not have another backlash.” If backlash is the metric for evaluating the company’s approach to member privacy, it seems to have done okay, at least at this early juncture. Within hours of Facebook’s announcement of new privacy controls, four of its most outspoken critics weighed in on them. And all had positive things to say.
There was this from the Progress & Freedom Foundation: “By giving users powerful new tools to further protect their privacy, Facebook has employed a potent weapon to deal with marketplace apprehensions: self-regulation.”
This from Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York: “Facebook has heard the call of its users and realizes that much greater privacy protections are needed. This is a significant first step that Facebook deserves credit for.”
This from the ACLU: “After months of privacy-failing moves, Facebook is finally friending privacy again….While it’s true that users have more control than they did yesterday, there are still important steps that must be taken.”
And, finally, this from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: “The changes are pretty good, though more is needed.”
Consensus, then, seems to be that the privacy settings Facebook introduced today are an improvement over the old. That said, it’s important to remember that the old were sorely lacking, that the new were introduced under duress and that they DON’T do one thing that critics have been clamoring for: Make the highest privacy settings the default.
Which is really pretty weak, when you think about it, as Jeffrey Chester at the Center for Digital Democracy notes:
Facebook made some positive changes today, but only because of political pressure from policymakers and privacy advocates on both sides of the Atlantic. Mr. Zuckerberg’s failure to acknowledge the political realities don’t bode well for Facebook’s future approach to privacy: he appears to be living a Alice in Digital Wonderland fantasy, where he only makes changes on privacy because he has the goodwill of its users in mind. Just last December 9, after all, Facebook made one of its typical self-reverential announcements that it was “rolling out easy-to-use tools to empower people to personalize control over their information.” These changes triggered a user revolt, letters from Senators, an opinion ordering a reversal from the EU, and concern from the FTC.