Facebook expected to roll out simple privacy settings within the next few weeks

News by Dan Raywood

Facebook is preparing to release simple privacy settings following a meeting last week with its staff.

Facebook is preparing to release simple privacy settings following a meeting last week with its staff.

According to the allfacebook.com website, Facebook's public policy director Tim Sparapani spoke with American radio journalist Kojo Nnamdi and stated that the company would release simple privacy settings in the coming weeks.

Wired reported that Sparapani said: “Now we've heard from our users that we have gotten a little bit complex, I think we are going to work on that. We are going to be providing options for users who want simplistic bands of privacy that they can choose from and I think we will see that in the next couple of weeks.”

It claimed that proposed changes are unlikely to reverse its December policy changes to make large portions of a user's profile ‘publicly available' by ‘helping everyone find and connect with each other by keeping some information - like your name and profile picture'.

He told Nnamdi on Washington DC's WAMU station that Facebook was dedicated to privacy. He said: “We have built a privacy setting for every new type of sharing [users] are allowed to have. What that means is that in fact we have come up with an extraordinary number of privacy settings.

“This should be compared to almost any other company out there where there are no privacy settings at all, so Facebook should be getting credit here for giving tools in the first place.”

Blogger Nick O'Neill, writing on allfacebook.com, said: “Given that the company has come under significant pressure over the past couple of weeks over new programs, including the highly controversial ‘Instant Personalisation' program, it's not surprising to hear Sparapani announce these features. What's even more significant is that these ‘simple' privacy settings sound as though they've most likely been in the works for a short period of time.

“What I'm still wondering is why Mark Zuckerberg or any other executive haven't made a formal announcement stating that they are listening. While representatives of the company's communications department have stated that the company is listening and will effectively do the right thing, no formal statement has come from Mark Zuckerberg.

“Perhaps this is a test of Mark's ability to delegate some of the communication to the general public, however I'm pretty sure that most people want to hear that the company is listening from Mark's own mouth (or at least a blog post under his name).”

Benjamin Cohen, technology correspondent at Channel4 News, claimed that Facebook clearly realises that not everyone understands the 50 privacy settings and 170 privacy options that users are currently presented with and are confusing users and not everyone has realised that their status updates are so public.

He said: “The company are still in discussions internally about how best to implement new changes, but it is clear that some simplification will occur soon. There was talk of big privacy options that change scores of privacy settings rather than having to set them individually.

“Facebook as a company are refreshing in their ability to actually respond to criticism. They don't shy away from it as other technology giants have a tendency to. They are, I think still genuinely taken by surprise at the way that people use Facebook and more importantly the information they upload. Users are their lifeblood, if they upset them then they risk their whole future existence. They've realised that there's unease and they will change things.”

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said: “If the reports are accurate, the question everyone will be asking is whether Facebook is really prepared to make the radical changes necessary to satisfy the growing number of users concerned with privacy on the site?

“Or will users believe that the changes are cosmetic and do not go far enough and, ultimately, quit the site altogether? Certainly, from my own point of view, Facebook needs to take a fundamental shift in its approach. Rather than asking users to ‘opt-out' from sharing their information with more and more of the internet, they should ask their almost 500 million members to explicitly choose to ‘opt-in'.”


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