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Facebook Users Complain About Privacy Policy Wording

Facebook Users Complain About Privacy Policy Wording
March 23, 2012 11:44AM

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Analyst Brad Shimmin said the Facebook Privacy Policy changes do not sound to him "like they are changing any responsibilities." But, he added, it does sound like at Facebook "they are distancing themselves from things like 'privacy,' and putting the onus on developers and users."

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As every business and many consumers know, information is power. And, once again, there's a public struggle between Facebook and some of its users over who controls that power.

The stimulus for this most recent firestorm is a revision by the company of its Privacy Policy. Last week, Facebook published its proposed changes for the site's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which describes its relationship with its users, including privacy issues.

The company said in a statement that "many of the changes are administrative," such as replacing the term Privacy Policy with Data Use Policy, but the revisions are not going over well with some users.

'I Reject the Changes'

The proposed statement draft was posted with the intention of receiving user comments for up to one week, but that was enough time for a significant number of thumbs-down opinions from users in the U.S. and elsewhere.

For instance, more than 30,000 members of the German-language Facebook site all delivered the same, single sentence in their native language, which translated as "I reject the changes."

One concern is the revised language describing what information is available to which apps. The relevant line currently reads, "When you use an application, your content and information is shared with the application." The proposed revision reads, "When you or others who can see your content use an application...."

To some users, that raises alarms about apps installed by friends being able to read your information. Facebook replies that their current policy already allows this, and that the new wording is simply intended to make the policy as clear as possible. The company noted that users can go into Privacy Settings and control whether apps have access to their information.

Another bone of contention is simply that the word "privacy" is being replaced by references to "data use," but Facebook and others have noted that this simply states the obvious -- that use of your data is how Facebook pays the bills.

Distancing from 'Privacy'

In addition, making users responsible for not tagging those who do not want to be tagged, instead of Facebook carrying that responsibility, is also making waves.

The giant social-networking site, whose impact is now felt by countless businesses as well as consumers, said that other revisions in the Rights and Responsibilities wording relate to clarification of online safety issues, inclusion of social plug-ins, the provision that upgrades to downloaded software from Facebook may occur, and a prohibition against extracting protected source code from Facebook software products.

Brad Shimmin, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, said the changes in the statement do not sound to him "like they are changing any responsibilities." But, he added, it does sound like "they are distancing themselves from things like 'privacy,' and putting the onus on developers and users."

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