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

Flop: After a noisy backlash, Facebook announced that it would overhaul its privacy settings. During a May 2010 press conference at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California, CEO Zuckerberg said that Facebook had radically simplified its privacy changes: The previous 50 privacy settings were reduced to fewer than 15, and the number of sections in the privacy settings was consolidated from ten settings on three pages to seven settings on one page. In the end, the widened set of public data remained intact.

Privacy Changes Make More Data Public

Flip: In November 2009, Facebook decided to update its privacy settings, ostensibly to make them simpler and more user-friendly. The changes included the ability to assign certain privacy settings on a post-by-post basis.

But as is often the case with changes in terms of service that Facebook announces as being benevolent to users, the revised policy offered a big benefit to Facebook as well. Here's what the Electronic Freedom Foundation had to say about the revisions, in a December 2009 blog post: "These new "privacy" changes are clearly intended to push Facebook users to publicly share even more information than before. Even worse, the changes will actually reduce the amount of control that users have over some of their personal data."

Specifically, the new privacy controls set many key personal data points--including the user's list of friends--to "public" by default, meaning that thenceforth anybody could view the data. The changes also completely removed the users' option to keep private their gender, their hometown, and the names of pages that they had become a fan of.

Flop: Facebook again relented only somewhat, reinstating a privacy control that hid friend lists on users' profile pages.The friend lists remained fair game for applications developers, however.

The Beacon Blunder

Flip: Facebook launched a program called "Beacon" in November 2007 that permitted third-party sites to distribute "stories" on Facebook about users who expressed an interest in a product or service at the partner site. Less than a year later. a group of plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit "alleging that Facebook and its affiliates did not give users adequate notice and choice about Beacon and the collection and use of users' personal information." The suit also named a number of Facebook partners that had participated in Beacon, including Blockbuster, Fandango, Gamefly, Hotwire, Overstock.Com, STA Travel, and Zappos.com. This all happened amid growing discontent among Facebook users over the program.


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