Face to Face with Privacy

Mark Zuckerberg’s entry on the Facebook blog yesterday demonstrates that he both believes in and, more importantly, understands privacy. Finally.

The new Facebook privacy policy, introduced this week, has been welcomed as a meaningful step in the right direction as users look for assurances that the Internet giant will provide them with the tools to protect their own privacy while using the social networking service. The new policy is streamlined and simplified after mounting global pressure for Facebook to provide more effective privacy settings.

Facebook is now overhauling its system so users can more effectively control their information, with the changes being rolled out in the next days and weeks. The focus of the overhaul has been on providing a single control for content, more powerful controls for basic information and an easy mechanism to enable users to turn off all applications. Meanwhile, the company is offering assurances that those who want more ‘granular control’ will still be able to access the existing, much-criticised, privacy settings.

With these changes, it seems that Facebook has finally come to appreciate the reality of the need for meaningful privacy protection. The underlying rationale to the changes is sound – as Zuckerberg explained to Facebook users: “We’ve already offered a lot of controls, but if you find them too hard to use then you won’t feel like you have control. Unless you feel in control, then you wont be comfortable sharing and our service will be less useful to you. We agree we need to improve this.”

This is the revelation users have been waiting for. The hope going forward is that privacy settings, and not just those on Facebook, will become more effective in educating users, providing them with bona fide control and so enticing them to act confidently and knowledgeably in protecting their personal data.

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