Facebook is finally relenting in response to more than a month of non-stop criticism about its approach to user privacy. In a Washington Post Monday op-ed piece, CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the company will soon introduce new privacy controls that are “much simpler to use” and will also let users “turn off all third-party services.”
Zuckerberg’s apology: “Simply put, many of you thought our controls were too complex. Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark.” He also tells Robert Scoble in an e-mail that he knows “we’ve made a bunch of mistakes.”
The promised move to give users the ability to “turn off all third-party services” should placate those who have complained that Facebook — without asking their permission — is sharing their profile information with sites participating in its “instant personalization” program (Visit Pandora, for instance, and it instantly offers a “personalized experience” based on your Facebook profile info unless you go through a series of steps).
A second major complaint has been that users can no longer keep private certain profile info, such as what pages they are fans of. Unclear from Zuckerberg’s piece whether Facebook will change that too, considering that he doesn’t say whether there will be limits to what the new “simpler” privacy settings can control.
And while Facebook may now be moving to counter what has become a PR disaster it will still have much work to do to counter the view that it doesn’t prioritize the privacy of users.
Why the choice of The Washington Post as a platform for this mea culpa? Likely because of the recent interest in Facebook’s policies among government officials (Also can’t hurt that Washington Post Chairman Donald Graham is a Facebook board member).