By Shaheen Samavati, The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Facebook Inc. plans to unveil “drastically simplified” privacy controls Wednesday in a move that aims to address widespread concern over the security of personal information posted on the world’s most popular social networking website.
The company announced the planned changes on Tuesday in response to backlash over a feature it introduced in April that automatically shares some user information with third-party websites. Facebook says the changes will make it easier for users to opt out of the feature and control other aspects of their privacy on Facebook.com.
Consumer advocates say that while the change was needed, Facebook still isn’t doing enough to ensure that it meets users’ expectation of privacy.
“The problem right now is that users are kind of lulled into this sense of being able to protect your information,” said Ginger McCall, staff counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a consumer interest group. “You can adjust things to be ‘friends only’ but it doesn’t actually work that way. That only controls what people can see on your profile page, it doesn’t mean that the information can’t be used by Facebook in other ways.”
Anthony Broad-Crawford, vice president and chief technology officer of Within3 in Cleveland, said that for many people Facebook is their primary way of keeping in touch with friends, family and colleagues.
“In a lot of instances it’s replacing e-mail. Because of that, it’s very personal. We’re on Facebook talking about our family, health and financial situations. It gets a little scary if Facebook is being cavalier in how it handles that information,” said Broad-Crawford, whose firm offers online social networking for medical professionals.
He said Facebook must balance user privacy concerns with its interest in being a profitable business. The site has been successful in selling targeted advertising on its own website, and has begun business partnerships in order to integrate Facebook with other websites through a feature called “instant personalization.”
“They are sitting on a gold mine of information. It’s not hard to understand why they’re trying to shift in this direction,” said Broad-Crawford. But, at the same time, he said, it needs to maintain the sense of trust that caused users to share their information in the first place.
“People want to be taken care of, they want to know that their best interests are at heart in every change that Facebook makes.”
Story Compliments Of The Plain Dealer