NEWS

Survey Finds Facebook Users Think Privacy Policy Revision "a Bad Thing"

By Matthew Harwood

Facebook users almost unanimously dislike the social networking site's new privacy policy, according to a small survey released this week by Sophos.

"The study, conducted amongst 680 readers on Sophos's website and Facebook page, found that an overwhelming 95 per cent of the respondents think the privacy changes are 'a bad thing,'" the information security company posted on its Web site.

In March, Facebook revealed its latest revision to the social networking site's privacy policy. The most controversial revision, according to Sophos, was its decision to share user's "general information" with "pre-approved third-party Websites and applications." A Facebook user's general information provides a very detailed biographical sketch of a person: the user's name, the user's friends' names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections, and any content shared using the "Everyone" privacy setting. In certain cases, Facebook's privacy policy states, the site will share the location of a user's computer and age to pre-approved Web sites and applications.

Sophos blogger Graham Cluley explains "this would mean that [you] might visit a website and discover that it already knows who you are, your date of birth, where you live, who your friends are. All, without ever having given the site explicit permission to access that data."

Facebook assures its users that it has taken precautions to protect their users' privacy and personal information that's shared. "[W]e require these websites and applications to go through an approval process, and to enter into separate agreements designed to protect your privacy," according to the new privacy policy. "For example, these agreements include provisions relating to the access and deletion of your General Information, along with your ability to opt-out of the experience being offered."

Of the 680 readers polled by Sophos, only 16 supported Facebook's privacy policy revision. And as Cluley notes, even that number may be optimistic. "It tickled me that some of those votes approving Facebook's privacy policy came from an IP address at Facebook.com," he noted in a blog post.

If Facebook was truly concerned with protecting its users' privacy, Cluley wrote, the company would make its users "opt-in" rather than "opt-out" of sharing their personal information with third-parties.

"Once again, it feels like online privacy is being eroded by stealth," Cluley observed. "Too many websites are chipping away at their members' privacy and security, potentially exposing their personal data to third parties that were never in the equation when they first signed-up for the service."

IN OTHER FACEBOOK NEWS, a teenage boy in Arkansas filed harassment charges against his mother after she allegely broke into his Facebook account, posted unflattering remarks about him, and then changed his passwords. The boy's mother, Denise New, pledged to fight back, saying "'If I'm found guilty on this it is going to be open season' on parents," the New York Daily News reported.


♦ Photo by the[G]™/Flickr

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