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Facebook Exec Digs Deeper PR Hole

Facebook exec Elliot Schrage answered privacy-related questions from readers of The New York Times this week. But Schrage's attempts to justify the recent changes only highlight just how dismissive Facebook is of legitimate concerns.

Consider, one commenter asked why Facebook didn't make its features opt-in instead of opt-out. That's a good question, one that many other people have been asking about instant personalization -- Facebook's new feature that automatically shares users' names, pictures and other information with Yelp, Microsoft Docs and Pandora.

Schrage's answer: Users currently opt in by uploading photos of themselves or adding information to the service.

Now, that response might make some logical sense if Facebook had launched as a brand-new site on April 21, the date that the most recent features went live. It might even make sense if Facebook had launched last December, which was when Facebook decided to classify a host of data as publicly available information.

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But the vast majority of Facebook's 400 million-plus members joined the site, and uploaded photos of themselves and other data, before the new privacy policy took effect. How did those people opt in to sharing their photos and friend lists with, say, Yelp?

Schrage also says that the company's new share-everything approach is important because "a few fields of information need to be shared to facilitate the kind of experience people come to Facebook to have."

But again, that statement is contradicted by the timing of the changes. Since many users joined the site before their information was considered public by default, they obviously couldn't have come to Facebook for an experience that required shared data.

Facebook would do better to simply admit it was wrong and revise its settings -- again -- than continually attempt to justify the invasion of its users' privacy.

2 comments about "Facebook Exec Digs Deeper PR Hole".
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  1. Lisa Thorell from Off the Grid Public Relations, May 13, 2010 at 8:25 a.m.

    Nice points. The point in your last sentence

    Facebook would do better to simply admit it was wrong and revise its settings -- again -- than continually attempt to justify the invasion of its users' privacy

    really is going to pose a trust & marketing problem for FB as they learn the "internal FB worldview of privacy is not alligned with their customers worldview. As you point out, Schrage's interview w NYTimes potently shows they still don't understand (actually given Zuckerberg's hubris it's more like "refuse to acknowledge") this yet. Sure makes for zesty drama, eh?

  2. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, May 14, 2010 at 2:52 a.m.

    Interesting...you are saying that a brand new site would have an unfair advantage over FB. I am glad people who care about privacy let me know how to opt-out of this "personalization" feature.

    What concerns me most is that some of us might have different identities on FB with different logins. But, if there are cookie issues and things get complicated, you could end up with the identities mixed and, therefore, betrayed. Not cool at all.

    Remember George Orwell was really Eric Blair.

    An example of a lack of regard for the privacy of those who might have varying identities would be the service Twitlonger (at least a few months ago). You can try to use it to write an essay for one Twitter account, but if you used it for another Twitter account at one time before, your essay can easily publish as being from the original account (a clear bug in their software that may have been fixed by now). So a CEO can get caught as a major Marxist sympathizer for instance (or a Sarah Palin fanatic). And that kind of betrayal is no joke.

    I shut off "personalization" because I cannot trust that Yelp and other services won't confuse my various Facebook identities (if I have them).

    Now Facebook can say "But it is against our TOS to have a pen name identity on FB" - which amounts to "you can only have one logon ID per computer and it must be really you so the cookies can track you properly"...but then you start getting into a weird Gestapo attitude...a road they should not be going down.

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