This past month has been interesting for Facebook – they hired Timothy Sparapani as their lobbyist in Washington:
As a prominent privacy advocate, Timothy Sparapani, former senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that Internet companies have too much control over consumers’ data. The self-described “privacy zealot” didn’t join Facebook until seven months ago because he was uneasy about revealing personal information on the site.
He joins 24-year-old Adam Coner for the last year who has had as his main job “educat[ing] members of Congress and Capitol Hill staffers about leveraging Facebook to reach constituents.”
The current Chief Privacy officer Chris Kelly will be going on a leave of absence in September to focus on running for Attorney General of California.
EPIC has a very detailed page about Facebook Privacy. It is an impressive page that will give you pause. It outlines all the major features of the service it has concerns about. It has a list of all the EPIC Actions related to Facebook too.
This week Facebook is taking some steps to improve privacy from its website:
The power to share is the cornerstone of Facebook. Privacy and the tools for tailoring what information is shared with whom are at the heart of trust. Over the past five years, Facebook has learned that effective privacy is grounded in three basic principles:
- Control. When people can easily control the audience for their information and content, they share more and they’re able to better connect with the people who matter in their lives.
- Simplicity. When tools are simple, people are more likely to use them and understand them.
- Connection. With effective tools, people can successfully balance their desire to control access to information with their desire to connect – to discover and be discovered by those they care about.
That’s why in the coming days, we’ll be improving privacy on Facebook by launching a series of tests that guide people to new, simpler tools of control and connection.
I wrote about some of the issues I have with Facebook when I heard Dave Morin talk at SXSW “Am I to “old” to get Facebook – or do they not get it?”. I highlighted 3 different issues:
- What Blane Cook describes as “being in a room with everyone you ever met all the time”: all my friends from different contexts of my life get all the same ‘status’ updates and I don’t use them cause I feel like it is social spam to speak to them with the same voice and same frequency. I also don’t like that it broadcasts everything I “do” in the network to everyone.
- “Real Names” vs. handles online – their belief they have “everyone’s real name in facebook”
- The difference that women experience in online space and how they manage and protect their identity and what information is online.
Here is what they are saying about how to address this issue:
They are introducing a Publisher Privacy Control so that on a per-post basis users can control who sees each post. Friends, Friends and Family etc. On the other end of the spectrum, you can also share with “everyone” now.
They are simplifying their privacy settings. Hopefully this will make it more usable.
They are figuring out how to gracefully help people transition between the old settings and the new way.
They are asking everyone to revisit their settings…because:
We think Facebook is most useful when people can find and connect with each other, which is why this tool will enable you to make available those parts of your profile that you feel comfortable sharing in order to facilitate better connection. You will have the choice of being as open or as limited in the sharing of this information as you want.
The byline on the post is cute:
Chris Kelly, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, is glad to be offering you more control.
Read Write Web goes into their understanding of the announcement and user experience. This is a long, good piece.