Facebook Plans 'Simplistic' Privacy Tools - InformationWeek

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5/19/2010
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Facebook Plans 'Simplistic' Privacy Tools

New options for choosing privacy levels will come 'in the next couple of weeks' says Facebook exec.

Hoping, perhaps, to allay users' fears and temper privacy proponents' outrage, in the next few weeks, Facebook will unveil "simplistic" privacy options, Tim Sparapani, Facebook's head of public policy said Tuesday.

“Now we’ve heard from our users that we have gotten a little bit complex,” Sparapani said in a radio interview. “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.”

Debate continues inside and outside Facebook's walls. For years, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has argued Facebook users should be more open with their data, at times over-ruling employees who want the site to keep information private, according to the Wall Street Journal. Instead of keeping privacy as the default setting, Zuckerberg promoted tools that users can select to control the information that is seen publicly, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Apparently, all possibilities -- including changing default settings on the site -- are on the table, although Facebook has no known plans to take that step.

"We know we are respected for our innovation in sharing and we want to be just as well-regarded around our innovations for control. And the conversations in the company reflect that," a Facebook spokesman said in a statement.

The battle rages at a time when Facebook is targeted by advocacy groups, the U.S. government and competitors. On the international front, lawmakers in Canada and European Union also have placed Facebook in their crosshairs.

There is a small but growing movement encouraging users to dump the popular social networking site, and the Federal Trade Commission is investigating how online social networks use account holders' information.

Sparapani's statement came a day after MySpace's official word that, in coming weeks, it will grant users the option of selecting one privacy setting for all the information on their profile - including their name, interests, birthday, photos and other personal information.

Under the new settings, MySpace users may make this data available to friends only, anyone on MySpace, or anyone 18 years or older in and outside the social network, according to MySpace, which is owned by News Corp.

Sparapani was interviewed on public radio station WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi program Tuesday.

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