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Summary:

Facebook is finally relenting in response to more than a month of non-stop criticism about its approach to user privacy. In a Washington Pos…

Mark Zuckerberg
photo: AP Images

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.

After all, this is all very deja vu for Facebook. Just two examples: After users raised a fuss a year ago when Facebook said it would have perpetual ownership over some of thier data, Zuckerberg also relented, saying he would return to previous terms of use temporarily. And Zuckerberg similary apologized after a backlash over the launch of the company’s controversial Beacon ad program in late 2007.

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).

  1. The Zuckster is saying the ability to control privacy to the degree users have needed has always been there, and that FB is just now providing simplified controls for implementing them.

    As users have proven in the past few weeks, and with the recent changes, this is simply not true.

    For just one example: the Zuckster today said, “We do not give advertisers access to your personal information.” http://bit.ly/aZjg41

    But as has been shown, opt-in control of advertiser access to private info (even after-the-fact) has been shown to be the norm.

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  2. It seems I cannot edit my comment above. In the last paragraph, I intended to say, “lack of user control over advertiser access to private info (even after-the-fact) has been shown to be the norm.”

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  3. Time Travel Writer Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    Share value is losing momentum. Where do you go when you’ve gone too far? Quality is still free and none of your damn business means no compromise. If you are good, plan on being lonesome. Facebook has a plan and the bad guys are winning. There are more of us. Powerpoint makes you stupid and it appears that Facebook makes you a dumbass. Better to be a badass. It’s your decision. Change comes and goes. The Post has quality, quality control is a problem though.

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