Crisis meeting for Facebook
It seems Facebook has gone into panic mode amid a constant barrage of complaints, questions and concern over privacy.
AllFacebook.com was one of the first blogs to report that the world's biggest social network "has called an all hands meeting tomorrow afternoon, at 4PM Pacific, to discuss the company's overall privacy strategy according to sources inside the company".
As we reported in Tech Brief, the company's vice president of public policy, Elliot Shrage, tried to allay concerns over privacy by holding a question and answer session with the New York Times this week.
The paper said it had over 300 questions from readers which they whittled down, proof that a growing number of users are confused and worried about how their private information is being treated by the world's biggest social network.
Facebook's crisis meeting shows that Mr Shrage's explanation to the Times and its readers clearly didn't cut it:
"We've worked hard to educate our users about changes to, and innovations in, our products. Facebook users receive notices about our new products and whenever we propose a change to any policies governing the site, we have notified users and solicited feedback."
The barrage has been constant over the last couple of days.
My post earlier this week about the anti-Facebook network called Diaspora shows that the issue is gaining traction.
There was also the news from Alison Diana at Information Week that "the phrase 'how to quit Facebook' generated 16.9 million results in a Google search Tuesday morning, while 'how do I delete my Facebook account?' resulted in 15.9 million links".
Jason Calcanis, another well-known blogger, penned his own take on the Facebook privacy debacle by suggesting that founder Mark Zuckerberg has gone too far of late in how he is treating users and developers.
"Over the past month, Mark Zuckerberg, the hottest new card player in town, has overplayed his hand," said Mr Calcanis in his post:
"Facebook is officially 'out', as in uncool, amongst partners, parents and pundits all coming to the realization that Zuckerberg and his company are-simply put-not trustworthy."
And now in what is being termed the strongest rebuke yet, European data protection officials said in a letter [16KB PDF] that "it is unacceptable that the company fundamentally changed the default settings on its social-networking platform to the detriment of a user".
The paper also reveals that the policy is longer than the United States' constitution with 5,830 words.
There is little doubt that this shows Facebook has tied itself in knots over privacy and a bit of clarity is what is needed.
His favourites include blocking access by particular people, publishing only to particular lists and limiting access to data by applications.
In the space of a 15-minute block on Twitter, this is what users had to say about the company and its direction:
@l_e_o_v Longer than the US Constitution : FB privacy policies http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/05/12/business/facebook-privacy.html
@BlakJakNZ Has anyone asked Facebook to limit 'like' publicity to mutual friends? @vavroom
@brezina I thought this fb privacy uproar was a tech blogger thing, but in last 2 days 2 non-tech friends cancelled their acct. This is real
@TroyGoodfellow Facebook apps that spam everyone on your list? Not cool. This is why people hate you. And now me.
@grinding4ddub i just deleted my 2 myspace accounts.....facebook might be next
@ericzoo Looks like Facebook's privacy mess is a slow motion car crash. #startups there is a lesson to be learned here.
@nowthatsmint ugh. ok facebook you are annoying me.. time to minimalize you! right now!
@stoweboyd Facebook Privacy Mess http://sto.ly/a2y7eN Facebook has to do more than communicate better
@HuRa After Facebook privacy blowback #984, who's buying Zuckerberg's next public "Aw gee shucks, sorry guys" apology?