Facebook Urged to Do More to Protect User Privacy

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WASHINGTON — Privacy activists called on Facebook on Wednesday to
give users of the booming social network more control over the use of
their personal data.

The coalition of privacy groups, in an open
letter to Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg,
welcomed the social network’s recent overhaul of its privacy controls
but said additional steps were needed.

"Facebook continues to push
its users into more and more public sharing — sharing that it’s not at
all clear members want or fully understand," said Kevin Bankston,
senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of
the signatories of the letter.

"We’re calling on Facebook and Mark
Zuckerberg to respect their members and give them the information and
the tools they need for true control," Bankston said.

signatories included the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern
California, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Center for
Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Consumer Watchdog, Electronic
Privacy Information Center, Privacy Activism, Privacy Lives and Privacy
Rights Clearinghouse.

In the letter, the privacy activists asked
Facebook to allow users to decide which applications can access their
personal data.

Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman, said as part of
recent changes, Facebook had added a simple way for users to ensure
that none of their information is shared with applications, "even
information otherwise available to everyone."

The privacy
activists said an "instant personalization" feature which allows
"partner websites" to access data regarding Facebook members should be
turned off by default and users who want this feature should have to

"The instant personalization pilot program has been
widely misunderstood," responded Facebook’s Noyes. "The only information
the three partners currently in the program receive from Facebook is
users’ public information.

"This means that our partners cannot
access anything other than the same information that anyone could access
simply by going to a Facebook user’s profile," he said.

addition, we’ve made it easier for people to turn off the instant
personalization pilot program, which prevents those, and any future,
applications in the program from accessing their information."

privacy activists also called for an option for information to be
shared in an encrypted mode to protect it from "outside snooping," a
feature Noyes said Facebook was testing and hopes to provide in the
coming months.

Consumer Watchdog
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