Facebook arranges crisis talks on its deteriorating privacy issues for this afternoon

Facebook has called its employees together for crisis talks on privacy later today.

According to media reports, growing concerns about user privacy on the social networking site will be discussed later today. A recent New York Times Q&A with Elliot Schrage, vice president for public policy at Facebook, led to users asking a series of questions about the site's privacy settings, with him assuring users that the social network will ‘do better'.

He admitted that recent changes had confused users when it had made ‘extensive efforts to provide users greater control over what and how they share'. He said that it was ‘not acceptable or sustainable. But it's certainly fixable. You're pointing out things we need to fix'.

The story of the crisis meeting was first reported by the allfacebook.com blog site; with blogger Nick O'Neill claiming that the company's overall privacy strategy will be discussed ‘according to sources inside the company'.

He said: “While it's unknown what Facebook will announce during the meeting, it's pretty obvious that changes will need to be made if Facebook is going to regain users' trust. The most likely change will come in the form of a temporary removal of the ‘instant personalisation' service, or at the least, a shift to ‘opt-in', something many privacy advocates have been calling for.

“Even with the criticism surrounding Facebook's ‘instant personalisation', many privacy advocates want further changes involved with Facebook's new social plug-ins, as many of them function when a user isn't logged in and there's no way for a user to opt-out from having their data being tracked.

“While we have our own opinion as to what changes Facebook should make, it's clear that Facebook is feeling the pressure and thus the reason for holding tomorrow's meeting.”

Speaking to SC Magazine, Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said that he hoped that the meeting had already taken place, as there must be something pretty significant or why waste staff time?

He said: “It could be to tell them that they are confident that they are doing the right thing and not to worry about stories or it could be a rollback like they did with Beacon, but they are getting a lot of flack at the moment. More and more high profile users are saying that they are moving on and a possible reason is privacy.

“This is a PR issue that needs to be addressed, what are they doing with the data and sharing it with the world?”

Identity theft expert Robert Siciliano claimed that there was ‘a groundswell of people who are anti-Facebook today, as a Google search on ‘Facebook' and ‘privacy' results in 761,000,000 results in a quarter of a second.

He said: “The major issue here is not that Facebook isn't private, it's that some people want it to be private and it's not and they can't have their cake and eat it too. Privacy has always been a hotbed media grabbing issue that sells news too, so the few privacy pundits that there are, get all this attention by pointing the finger.”

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