Famous Facebook flip-flops

The social networking goliath has made a number of hasty moves, and often has had to reverse course on them

By Mark Sullivan, PC World |  Internet, Facebook, privacy

Flip: In August 2010, Hamburg's Data Collection Authority questioned Facebook's use of the e-mail addresses of non-Facebook users who were invited to join the site as part of Facebook's Friend Finder feature. Not only did those people not know how Facebook got their e-mail addresses, but it was unclear how Facebook would use the addresses once they were in the Facebook servers. Would Facebook hand them over to partners? Or would it just continue to pester the owners of the e-mail addresses to join Facebook?

Flop: Facebook reached an agreement January 25 with Germany in which it backed off--somewhat. Facebook said that it would give the non-Facebook users a chance to opt out of further invitations to join Facebook. The company also said that it would explain to the owners of the e-mail addresses why they were being contacted. Facebook did not agree to stop capturing and keeping the e-mail addresses, however, and it became clear that Germany would have to sue to make that happen.

Still More Data Made Public

Flip: In April 2010, Facebook decided to widen the set of Facebook user information it classified as public, or sharable with partners or advertisers. Not only was users' basic personal information now public, but so was their current city, education, work, likes, interests, and friends. Privacy groups went into overdrive. In a letter to CEO Zuckerberg, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU of Northern California, and the Center for Democracy and Technology asked that users be required to opt-in to Instant Personalization before their data could be used in it, and that more privacy options be provided, including allowing users to "control every piece of information they can share via Facebook."

Facebook insisted that making the data public would make Facebook a more social community and would ultimately benefit users. The reality, of course, was that Facebook--a free service--had simply raised the cost of using the site, not by asking for users' money but by asking for more data that the company could share with its advertising clients and partner sites.


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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