Advocacy Groups Ask Facebook for More Privacy Changes

Published on

Despite the fixes Facebook has made to its
privacy settings, ten groups are asking the social network to do more.
Here’s what they want.

Facebook recently made some significant
changes to its privacy settings
, but ten advocacy groups are want
the social network to do more. The groups are asking for six additional
privacy changes, ranging from providing a more secure user connection to
the Facebook site, to giving you more control over how third-party apps
access your data.

The requested privacy fixes were sent to Facebook CEO Mark
Zuckerberg in an open letter signed by the American Civil Liberties
Union of Northern California, Center for Democracy and Technology,
Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Consumer Watchdog,
Electronic Frontier Foundation, Electronic Privacy Information Center,
Privacy Activism, Privacy Lives, and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. 

Here’s a breakdown of the new privacy requests.

App Gap

The ten groups are calling for Facebook to give you more control
over which types of data a third-party application like Farmville or
Quiz Monster can access. The biggest problem the groups see is that your
publicly available information on Facebook can be fed to third parties
whenever one of your Facebook friends signs up to use an application on

While it’s true you can’t protect your basic information–such as
your name, profile photo, gender, and networks–from third-party apps ,
you can control some of the information your friends can share about

To adjust your third-party privacy settings, go to
Account>Privacy Settings> ‘Edit Settings’ (found under
Applications and Websites) at the bottom of the privacy settings page.
Then click on the Edit Settings tab next to ‘Info accessible through
your friends’. This brings up a checklist that lets you block
third-parties from accessing personal data like your bio, birthday,
status updates, photos, and other information.

Instant Personalization

The adovcacy groups also ask Facebook to not automatically enroll
users in the new Instant Personalization feature. Instant
Personalization allows select partner Web sites, including Yelp,
Pandora, and Microsoft Docs, to customize your site visits based on the
information contained in your Facebook profile.

In fact, Instant Personalization switched to an opt-in program
shortly after it launched, so users are no longer automatically enrolled
in the program. If you want to check your Instant Personalization
settings, go to Account>Privacy Settings> ‘Edit Settings’ (found
under Applications and Websites) at the bottom of the privacy settings
page. Then select the ‘Edit Settings’ button for Instant
Personalization, scroll down to the bottom of the next page, and uncheck
the Instant Personalization check box to block the feature.

Don’t Track Users

The advocacy groups say that Facebook is tracking the Web browsing
activity of its users whenever they visit any site that has Facebook’s
social plugins installed, such as the universal like button.

Even if you don’t click on the Facebook social plugin, the social
network will still track you if you’re logged into Facebook, the letter
claims. The groups call on Facebook to stop tracking people unless they
interact with Facebook’s plugins and also calls on Facebook to make the
logout button more prominent on a user’s Facebook homepage. Currently,
the logout button is buried under the ‘Account’ drop down menu in the
top left corner of your Facebook dashboard.

HTTPS, Full Control and Export Option

statement of Principles
says users should "have the freedom to
decide with whom they will share their information, and to set privacy
controls to protect those choices." In keeping with that statement, the
advocacy groups are asking Facebook to allow users to lock down their
profile data completely if they so choose. Currently, Facebook users
have to make their profile photo, name, gender, and network affiliations

The groups also call on Facebook to provide a free export tool so
you can easily take your data, such as your photos, with you if you
choose to delete your Facebook account.

Finally, the groups call on Facebook to encrypt its user Web
traffic through the HTTPS protocol, which is commonly used for online
financial transactions. Earlier this year, Google made a similar move
when it automatically used HTTPS when Gmail
login to their accounts.

A Facebook representative notified me that the social network has
published a point-by-point response to the advocacy groups’ open letter.
You can read
it on Scribd.

Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).

Consumer Watchdog
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