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 changes are made on privacy only because Facebook 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.
There are more simplified and manageable privacy settings, and Facebook has made an important first (or back-tracking!) step. Unfortunately, Facebook still refuses to give its users control over the data it collects for its targeted advertising products. The defaults should also be initially set for non-sharing, with the minimization of data collection at the core of Facebook’s approach to privacy. CDD and other privacy groups will examine these new settings and identify where further changes should be made, including on advertising data. Meanwhile, we want Congress to hold hearings on social networking privacy, with Mr. Zuckerberg as a star witness. Mr. Zuckerberg should be asked to explain how Facebook continues to develop new approaches to data collection and privacy–from Beacon to Instant Personalization–that continually lowers the bar–until the company has to do some form of hasty retreat. Congress needs to examine how Facebook develops its approach to privacy, and what its business plans mean for the future.
CDD will also press the FTC to investigate Facebook, including acting on complaints filed with EPIC and other groups. It’s time for the FTC to announce guidelines to protect social networking privacy on Facebook and other sites.
Center for Digital Democracy