Facebook Users Still Confused by Privacy Changes

It looks like Facebook still has a lot of work to do to explain its recent privacy guideline changes and those it’s proposing to alter. In a blog post, the company says many of 4,000 comments it received in the last week either requested features that already exist or showed a misunderstanding of the company’s policies and procedures. The social network’s communications and public policy director, Barry Schnitt, says it got comments “from people around the world, including users, regulators, and online privacy advocates” responding to the changes, both those that have taken effect and those that are being proposed. The new policies were described in a post by general counsel Michael Richter on March 26.

The Facebook spokesman says that some commenters asked to be able to hide their Friends List, but notes: “[T]his is something that people already have the ability to do. We announced this feature back in December, and you can read more about it in our Help Center.” Others apparently had questions with regards to Facebook requiring users to provide accurate information about themselves, and limiting them to one account, but as Schnitt notes, “These are not new requirements. Facebook has always been based on a real-name culture.” The company reiterated that policy in a response to a post we did recently on younger users changing their names to hide their activities from potential employers.

The Facebook policy director says that other commenters misunderstood how the company handles user data. They asked that their information not be shared with advertisers, he says, which “reflects a common misconception about advertising on Facebook. We don’t share your information with advertisers unless you tell us to (e.g. to get a sample, hear more, or enter a contest). Any assertion to the contrary is false. Period. Instead, we enable advertisers to target anonymized demographics and attributes.” Other users raised questions about a new proposal by Facebook that would see certain information shared with “pre-approved partner websites” to offer “a personalized experience” to users who go to that site and are logged into Facebook. Schnitt writes:

It’s important to underscore that this will be a test with a handful of carefully selected partners to provide express personalization on their sites. These partners will be pre-selected, reviewed, and bound by contracts with Facebook – much like other partners we have worked with in other contexts to deliver unique and innovative experiences.

Schnitt says the new documents related to Facebook’s Privacy Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities will be “live on the site in the coming days.” Given the company’s recent history with its changes, there will undoubtedly be even more concerns and confusion once the new policies are posted.

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