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Facebook faces witch-hunt over privacy

by Scott Bicheno on 14 May 2010, 15:09

Tags: Facebook

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Fair game

It seems to be generally accepted that once a person or company get big enough, metaphorically, they're fair game for any abuse you feel like throwing at them. Here in the UK we're veterans at knocking people down, but they're getting pretty decent at it in the US too.

While Apple was punchbag-of-the-week last week, it's Facebook's turn this week. Where Apple is criticised for being too closed, Facebook is considered too open - at least with its users' data.

Last Wednesday prominent tech blogger Jason Calacanis posted a gloves-off attack on Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, which concluded "Stop Facebook, Save the World!" On the same day a group of European data protection authorities, going by the name of The Article 29 Working Party, wrote to Facebook to say it found recent changes to its default settings were to the detriment of end-users. Essentially: some settings that have been made ‘opt-in' should be ‘opt-out'.

Here's what Facebook had to say about the Article 29 letter: "We appreciate the feedback and input of The Article 29 Working Party, whose letter we are reviewing in detail.  While there are many things in their letter we agree on, there are others where we do not, such as around the Party's suggested use of pseudonyms on social networks.  

"Facebook has always been based on a real name culture, and we fundamentally believe this leads to greater accountability and a safer and more trusted environment for our users.   There are plenty of places on the Internet where a person can be anonymous - Facebook is not one of them.

"We feel that Facebook has been in the forefront of all kinds of sites, not just social networking sites, in giving our users granular controls which enable each user to customise many individual settings in order to share, or protect, as much information as they feel comfortable with. We already enable users to exclude themselves from being indexed by search engines, and recently introduced granular data permissions for applications. We are happy to continue working with The Article 29 Working Party."